ScienceDaily.com reports that at the annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology Professor Roger Hart stated the gum disease has as much a negative impact on trying to conceive as obesity. As we’ve previously stated, gum disease in pregnant women (or “pregnancy gingivitis”) can result in a premature birth.
Periodontal disease (gum disease) has been linked with many types of illness: respiratory and kidney disease, type 2 diabetes, heart disease. However, this new report says that having gum disease prior to conception may make trying to get pregnant that much more difficult.
Professor Hart is the Professor of Reproductive Medicine at the University of Western Australia in Perth and Medical Director of Fertility Specialists of Western Australia. He stated, “Until now, there have been no published studies that investigate whether gum disease can affect a woman’s chance of conceiving, so this is the first report to suggest that gum disease might be one of several factors that could be modified to improve the chances of pregnancy.”
How did he come to this conclusion? A Western Australia study named SMILE followed 3,737 pregnant women. Researchers reviewed information on pregnancy outcomes and pre-pregnancy planning for 3,416 of these women. It turns out that women with gum disease took an average of seven months to conceive which is two months longer than what it took women without gum disease. Women in this group that weren’t Caucasian and had gum disease were more likely to take over a year to conceive (13.9%) versus those with healthy gums (6.2%). Results were similar for Caucasian women: those with gum disease did take longer to become pregnant but the results weren’t really significant – 8.6% for those with gum disease and 6.2% for those without it.
For 1,956 of the women in this SMILE study, time to conception information was available. Of this group, 146 women took longer than a year to get pregnant which can indicate impaired fertility. Factors other than gum disease can include: smoking, a high body/mass index (obesity), older in age and non-Caucasian in ethnicity. Of the 3,416 women in the study, 26% had some form of gum disease (1,014 women).
Professor Hart stated that perhaps pregnancies by non-Caucasian women were more affected because these women seemed to have a high level of inflammatory response to gum disease.
Professor Hart went elaborated further, “Our data suggest that the presence of periodontal disease is a modifiable risk factor, which can increase a woman’s time to conception, particularly for non-Caucasians. It exerts a negative influence on fertility that is of the same order of magnitude as obesity. This study also confirms other, known negative influences upon time to conception for a woman; these include being over 35 years of age, being overweight or obese, and being a smoker. There was no correlation between the time it took to become pregnant and the socio-economic status of the woman.
“All women about to plan for a family should be encouraged to see their general practitioner to ensure that they are as healthy as possible before trying to conceive and so that they can be given appropriate lifestyle advice with respect to weight loss, diet and assistance with stopping smoking and drinking, plus the commencement of folic acid supplements. Additionally, it now appears that all women should also be encouraged to see their dentist to have any gum disease treated before trying to conceive. It is easily treated, usually involving no more than four dental visits.
“The SMILE study was one of the three largest randomised controlled trials performed in Western Australia. It showed conclusively that although treatment of periodontal disease does not prevent pre-term birth in any ethnic group, the treatment itself does not have any harmful effect on the mother or fetus during pregnancy.”
Going along with Professor Hart’s suggestions, if you are or trying to get pregnant, please do see your dentist (along with your doctor) regularly. If you do have gum disease, may we suggest our PerioTherapy line of TheraBreath products. These products are specifically designed to stop gum disease in its tracks, so if you are thinking about adding another little one to the family, be sure to take care of your gums to avoid any potentially preventable problems.