Oral Bacteria & Pregnancy Outcomes

Expectant moms will go to great lengths to protect the health of their unborn babies, changing their habits, their diet ― even the personal products they use, simply to reduce negative health risks for the lives growing inside them. But recent research suggests there’s a threat most moms aren’t aware of ― one caused by microorganisms too small to be seen by the naked eye. The cause: periodontal disease (or more commonly, gum disease), a bacterial infection that affects millions of women (and men) in the U.S., many of whom have no idea they have or are at risk for the disease.

Oral Bacteria and Pregnancy

Periodontal disease is a bacterial disease of the gums and the jawbone, caused by many different types of oral pathogens (bacteria). Porphyromonas gingivalisFusobacterium nucleatum, and Actinomyces actinomycetecomitans are some of the most common and aggressive oral pathogens found in periodontal disease. These pathogens can begin to spread systemically in small amounts, traveling to many different organs, including the uterus and the amniotic cavity in pregnant women. Once the bacteria have entered the system, the body goes into a constant “battle” to destroy the pathogens. This battle is called chronic inflammation, and it throws off the body’s health and immune system. The immune cells start to overreact, which begins a chain reaction that can lead to miscarriages or premature birth. According to a new study in the Journal of Periodontology, a maternal periodontal infection has been recognized as a risk factor for pregnancy complications such as premature delivery and low birth weight in infants. Researchers concluded that pathogens causing periodontal disease translocate to the amniotic cavity where they contribute to triggering an adverse pregnancy outcome. Researchers found higher levels of periodontal bacteria in women who delivered premature term babies. Levels of Porphyromonas gingivalisFusobacterium nucleatum, and Actinomyces actinomycetecomitans were statistically significantly higher in premature births as compared to term deliveries, adjusting for baseline levels. Another common pregnancy complication is preeclampsia. According to the National Institutes of Health, approximately 5%–10% of all pregnancies worldwide are affected by preeclampsia, which is characterized by high blood pressure and proteins in the urine indicative of kidney damage. It’s been proven that a pregnant woman with periodontal disease is also more likely to develop preeclampsia. The specific cause of preeclampsia is unknown; however, researchers concluded that periodontal bacteria are a cause of preeclampsia. Just as with low birth weight, it is believed that oral bacteria spread to the amniotic cavity. That triggers the immune system response and leads to preeclampsia and pregnancy complications.

Protect Your Unborn Baby With Oral DNA Testing

Statistics show gum disease bacteria can be present even without evidence of oral symptoms. Oral DNA testing was developed to identify harmful bacteria through a simple, fast painless saliva test performed right in our office. Based on the results of that test, we can custom-tailor a gum disease treatment plan to help women improve their health and reduce their risks for pregnancy complications.

Call our office at 212-564-6686 to schedule your test today.

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