In our last blog we looked at the “link” between gum disease and Alzheimer’s. At pretty much the opposite end of the spectrum, today we are talking about a study that examined the pregnancies of 150 women to determine if there was a link between oral health (specifically gum disease) and early onset of labour. As with our Alzheimer’s blog, while we found the “link” interesting from a discussion point of view, we caution our readers to ask questions about the background and statistical data of any study before sounding the alarm!
In the case of early onset labour and oral health, the study, published in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology, “found that early birth rates were more common for women with untreated tooth decay or fillings.” Dr. Nigel Carter, of the Oral Health Foundation was quoted as saying “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.” (1) The team here at Brinkley Dental has also long talked about the very real link between oral health care and a variety of health issues. That is to say, as Dr. Carter points out, there is most definitely a link between our teeth and our health. However, before widespread panic amongst pregnant women sets in – it’s important to understand other possible factors (in addition to one’s oral health) that could lead to early onset labour.
First – as most women would agree – pregnancy is hard on the body, period. Many of the body’s normal functions are put under stress, changing and adapting during pregnancy. The mouth is no exception. For some women, even without evidence of gum disease, pregnancy can cause swollen, sore and sometimes even bleeding gums. This is in part due to hormonal changes in the body. Pregnancy can even leave you more vulnerable to plaque formation. In turn, one might be tempted to brush less simply because it’s uncomfortable. Thus begets a vicious cycle.
Referencing the study again, it went on to find that “women who went into early labour recorded gum health scores four times lower than those who had a timelier birth. They also had eight times more plaque.” (2) However, again it’s important to ask what other factors may have contributed to these lower recorded gum health scores. Did the study participants have equal access to good oral health care? Were their teeth already in poor condition prior to the onset of pregnancy? What about their overall health and wellbeing? It’s not enough to imply a direct cause and effect relationship between oral health care and early onset labour – at least not without understanding any other factors that may also have contributed to premature labour.
As we said toward the end of our previous blog – the team at Brinkley Dental ALWAYS recommends a good oral health care routine that includes regular dental check ups and ensuring you brush at least twice daily. Consider whether flossing and mouthwash are appropriate for you. Visiting a Dentist at least twice a year (perhaps especially if you are considering a pregnancy in your future) is also ALWAYS a good idea and is your best line of defence against concerns like gum disease. As always we’ll also end with our gentle reminder, “don’t forget to be a BFF with your mouth and Brush that SMILE!”