Did you know the health of your teeth and gums could have an impact on your ability to conceive? It’s true; research has shown the bacteria that cause periodontal disease can spread throughout the body, causing widespread inflammation, which, in turn, can take a toll on a woman’s fertility.
The Link Between Gum Disease and Fertility
Gum disease is caused by plaque, a sticky film composed of different types of harmful bacteria. Plaque forms on the surfaces of the teeth and roots. When plaque is not removed from your teeth promptly, it begins to damage the surrounding tissues. Initially, the multiple bacteria found in the plaque will inflame the gingiva (gums). Eventually, this ongoing inflammation will cause the gums to swell and bleed. This is a result of bacteria-excreting endotoxins — a byproduct of their own metabolism. Over time, the bacteria can enter the bloodstream through broken capillaries in the gum tissue.
Once in the bloodstream, the bacteria are free to travel to other areas of the body, including the reproductive organs, causing chronic inflammation that may interfere with a woman’s ability to conceive.
The Role of Inflammation
It’s easy to think of inflammation in terms of the visible symptoms and signs it causes: red, swollen or sore tissues. But inside the body, chronic inflammation causes a cascade of events, putting the immune system on overdrive and resulting in cell damage and even widespread cell death. The ongoing physiological stress triggered by inflammation can have a host of negative effects on the body, making it inhospitable to both eggs and sperm.
Researchers have explored the possible effects of oral pathogens on the reproductive system, and what they’ve found is sobering. One study highlighting the link between gum disease and fertility looked at 3,400 women who were pregnant or trying to conceive and found conception took considerably longer in women who had active untreated gum disease. At the end of the study, the authors concluded gum disease had about the same effects on fertility as obesity, which has long been recognized as a common barrier to conception.
And another study found women who undergo fertility treatments ― specifically, treatments to increase egg production ― were at an increased risk of gum disease and periodontal infections, making them more susceptible to pregnancy-related complications like premature delivery and low birth weight.
The Bottom Line: Take Care of Your Gums
Although the effects of gum disease on fertility and pregnancy can be serious, the disease itself is easily treated and even prevented. If you’re thinking of conceiving and want to prevent unnecessary pregnancy complications, maintaining healthy gums can increase the chance of fertility and decrease the possibility of adverse pregnancy outcomes. We recommend seeking dental care prior to conception and routinely throughout the pregnancy to assure there is no risk to the mother or the child. Having a comprehensive dental exam and periodontal evaluation prior to pregnancy is the first step in identifying and treating gum disease ― and one of the best things you can do for yourself and your baby.
To schedule your exam and evaluation, call our office at 212-564-6686 today.