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Periodontal Disease and Pregnancy

Researchers have shown that periodontal disease in expectant mothers actually exposes their unborn child to many different risks; particularly if they also happen to be diabetes sufferers.

Periodontal disease generally begins with a bacterial infection in the gum (gingival) tissue, which progressively destroys the tissue and the underlying bone.  If left untreated, the bacterial infection causes an inflammatory reaction in the body, which can significantly deepen the gum pockets (space between the teeth and gums) and forces the gum and jawbone to recede.  Eventually, the progressive nature of periodontal disease causes the teeth to become loose and unstable, and eventually fall out.

Pregnancy causes many hormonal changes which increase the risk of the expectant mother to develop gingivitis (inflammation of the gum tissue) and periodontal disease.  These oral problems have been linked in many research studies to preeclampsia, low birth weight of the baby and premature birth.  Expectant women should seek immediate treatment for periodontal disease in order to reduce the risk of pre-natal and post-natal complications.

Reasons for the Connection

There are many different reasons why periodontal disease may affect the health of the mother and her unborn child:

  • Prostaglandin – Periodontal disease appears to elevate levels of prostaglandin in mothers who are suffering from the more advanced forms of the condition.  Prostaglandin is a labor-inducing compound found in one of the oral bacteria strains associated with periodontitis.  Elevated levels of prostaglandin can cause the mother to give birth prematurely and deliver a baby with a low birth weight.

  • C - reactive protein (CRP) – This protein, which has been previously linked to heart disease, has now been associated with adverse pregnancy outcomes including preeclampsia and premature birth.  Periodontal infections elevate C-reactive protein levels and amplify the body’s natural inflammatory response.  Periodontal bacteria may enter the bloodstream causing the liver to produce CRP which leads to inflamed arteries as well as possible blood clots.  These inflammatory effects can then lead to blocked arteries causing strokes or heart attacks.

  • Bacteria spread – The bacteria which colonize in the gum pockets can readily travel through the bloodstream and affect other parts of the body.  In pregnant women, research has found that oral bacteria and associated pathogens have colonized in the internal mammary glands and coronary arteries.

Diagnosis and Treatment

There are many safe, non surgical treatment options available for pregnant women.  It is of paramount importance to halt the progress of periodontal disease in order to increase the chances of a safe and healthy delivery.

Initially, the dentist will assess the exact condition of the gums and jawbone in order to make a precise diagnosis.  Scaling and root planing are two common non-surgical procedures used to rid the tooth-root surfaces of calculus (tartar) and remove the bacterial toxins from the gum pockets.

The advantages to the pregnant woman are plentiful.  The risks of pregnancy complications caused by periodontal disease are reduced by as much as 50%, and these treatments will alleviate many unpleasant and harmful effects associated with gingivitis and periodontal infection.

Dentists can provide dental education and recommendations to the pregnant women on effective home care which can reduce risks that may affect her and/or her child’s health.  Risks of periodontal disease can be vastly reduced by proper home care, smoking cessation, dietary changes and the ingestion of supplementary vitamins.

If you have any questions or concerns about periodontal disease and its affect on pregnancy, please ask your dentist.

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Testimonials

All service was great! My dental technician did an excellent cleaning and I love their computer program that shows your potential cavities. I was able to see for myself whether I had problems or not.

I felt like they did not over-recommend things and were supportive of preventative methods and giving teeth the chance to bounce back with proper hygeine before jumping to "You need a filling". I had some questions, and they had no problem answering them

Elle B. , Arlington VA

10 Stars if Possible!
After the cleaning Dr. Cotes came in and he was great as well. He gave me a full dental exam and even took time to explain the clicking I get in my jaw. He gave me multiple options for teeth whitening and even told me the prices so there would be no up front surprises depending on which method I went with. He took the time to answer any question a threw at him and without trying to rush me out for the next patient. Not really sure what Megan S. is talking about in her review but I did see her only other review on the site was negative as well...just sayin...

Overall:
I would give Dr. Cotes and his staff 10 stars if it was possible. Everyone knows going to the Dentist is a crappy process. I didn't think it was this possible to have a decent time at the Dentist Office and be taken care of in a timely manor!!!

Dustin S. , Arlington VA

Dr. Cote is just that good. I was referred to Dr. Cote by a friend at work, and I am SO thankful for that reference. The man is a consummate professional, has a friendly staff and has provided me with nothing short of stellar care for the last year. He explained things to me that my lifelong dentist never took the time to do before (like, how I can proactively strengthen the enamel on my teeth). He's got hi-tech gear that indicated areas where future problems might crop up and he's kept an eye on them during every return visit. I have never felt empowered and reassured in a dentist's office, but Dr. Cote is that good.

Dentistry can be a very personal enterprise, and since I had the same dentist since birth, finding a new dentist in DC was a harrowing experience. I actually walked out of three dentists offices (too sketchy for my tastes) before settling going to Dr. Cote. I live in the District, but I'm willing to suffer the indignity of Pentagon City just to have Dr. Cote take care of my teeth.

Evan M. , Washington DC

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