Pregnant women with gum disease are significantly more likely to go into early labour, according to the findings of a new study.

Research discovered that women who entered early labour were 45% more likely to have gum disease than 29% of women who experienced a perfect pregnancy.

The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology (2019), also found that early birth rates were more common for women with untreated tooth decay or fillings.

Chief Executive of the Oral Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter OBE, says the research highlights the impact that oral health can have on overall wellbeing.

Dr Carter says:

“The health of our mouth can have a direct influence on many parts of our general health. This includes the chances of having a safer birth.”

“Many women find it more difficult to maintain good oral health during pregnancy.  This is because hormonal changes during this time can leave gums more vulnerable to plaque and more likely to be sore and swollen. They may even bleed.”

As part of the study, researchers examined the pregnancies and oral health of almost 150 women.

They found that those women who went into early labour recorded gum health scores four times lower than those with a term birth.  They also had eight times more plaque.

“To ensure your pregnancy goes as smoothly as possible, it is important to give your mouth the very best care,” adds Dr Carter.

Another study suggests there is a strong association between maternal gum disease and the risk of low birth weight.

There is a need to improve awareness of non-dental professionals working in ante-natal care (especially nurses and midwives) about the possible implications of gum disease and for a dental screening to be included at the antenatal stage for early detection. The study results indicate there is a need “to proactively promote periodontal health during pregnancy.”

Smoking and alcohol consumption also increases the chance of gum disease and are proven to harm an unborn child’s development.

Both smoking and alcohol can also lead to babies being born underweight and having poor dental health, with tooth enamel not forming properly.

Visiting a dentist for a check-up, and a hygienist for regular cleans will not only help improve the symptoms of bleeding gums for the pregnant mother but also reduce the risks for the baby too.

Brushing with a fluoride toothpaste twice a day, cleaning in between your teeth and taking care to monitor bleeding gums is vital.

Morning sickness can also be a problem for pregnant mums, so the advice is NOT to brush afterwards for approximately 2 hours, but rinse with water or a fluoride mouthwash. Brushing can cause the acidity to further damage the enamel.

For more information, always book an appointment for a dental professional to check you, and give bespoke advice.

Stay well.