Gum Disease and Pregnancy
According to Dr. Randeep Bhullar, DDS, gum infections, particularly for pregnant women, stem from the fluctuating hormone levels that come with pregnancy. Dr. Bhullar is of the opinion that many pregnant women neglect their oral care during pregnancy since they have much on their minds at the heat of pregnancy. Scientists believe that gum disease or inflammation in the mouth may trigger an increase in a chemical compound called prostaglandin, which induces early labor. While this theory has not yet been proven, a 2001 study found that pregnant women who develop gum disease between weeks 21 and 24 are four to seven times more likely to give birth before week 37. There is evidence that poor gum health in the extreme can lead to low birth weight as well. A number of studies — including a 2007 study of 3,567 Turkish women and a 2007 study of 1,305 Brazilian women — found a relationship between periodontal disease, preterm birth, and low birth weight to gum disease.
In addition, there has been a link established between poor oral health and pneumonia. It’s good to point out that much of the research focused on high-risk populations. A 2008 study of elderly participants found that the number who developed pneumonia was 3.9 times higher in patients with periodontal infection than in those free from it. “The lungs are very close to the mouth,” Dr. Bhullar observed. “Even in a healthy mouth there is lots of bacteria, but bacteria in a not-healthy mouth can get aspirated into the lungs, causing pneumonia or aggravating COPD, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder.” It is also important to note that several intervention studies cited by the CDC show that an improvement in oral health can lead to a reduction in respiratory infection.