Dental health and fertility

Updated: Sep 19, 2019


Medical science has started to establish very strong associations between poor dental health and difficulty conceiving a baby.


This is yet another reminder that poor oral health has profound impacts on the health of our whole body.



Fertility and women


The bacteria that cause gum disease are likely contributors to infertility and delays in conception. The mechanisms by which they do this are:

  • Chronic inflammation. This produces specific chemicals (cytokines) that affect the whole body, including the delicate endocrine (hormone) system that is crucially involved in preparing the body for pregnancy.

  • Directly entering the blood stream and travelling to distant parts of the body.

Both of these factors impact on the capacity of a woman achieve pregnancy both naturally and through IVF.


The magnitude of the impact of periodontal (gum) disease on fertility is as great as the impact of obesity.



Fertility and men


A small number of studies have shown a link between gum inflammation from poor oral hygiene, and male infertility and reduced semen quality.

As is the case for women, it is thought that the effects occur because of:

  • Inflammation and the chemical impact this has on the endocrine system , and

  • Direct spread of bacteria from the gums into the circulation and distant areas of the body. It has been shown that the bacterial count in semen of infertile men is higher than fertile men. These bacteria are likely to be coming from the inflamed gums. 

At this stage, the exact mechanisms that lead to reduced female and male infertility are not completely understood, however the statistical associations are so strong as to be undeniable.



What does this mean for any couple seeking to become pregnant?


  • It is suggested that any couple seeking to become pregnant have their gums assessed by their dental healthcare professional. It has even been suggested that an oral health check should be mandatory for every couple, prior to undertaking IVF.

  • Both women and men should do all they can to improve their oral hygiene before setting out to fall pregnant.

There are many important reasons for this, and they will be explored in further articles about the value of good gum health throughout and after pregnancy.




Resources


Fertility and women


Khanna SS, Dhaimade PA, Malhotra S. Oral Health Status and Fertility Treatment Including IVF. J Obstet Gynaecol India. 2017;67(6):400–404. doi:10.1007/s13224-017-1025-0


Hart, R. (2012). Periodontal Disease: Could this be a Further Factor Leading to Subfertility and is There a Case for a Prepregnancy Dental Check-up ? Women’s Health, 229–230. https://doi.org/10.2217/WHE.12.15


Fertility and men


Klinger, A., Hain, B., Yaffe, H., & Schonberger, O. (2011). Periodontal status of males attending an in vitro fertilization clinic. Journal Of Clinical Periodontology38(6), 542-546. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-051x.2011.01720.x


Nwhator, S., Umeizudike, K., Ayanbadejo, P., Opeodu, O., Olamijulo, J., & Sorsa, T. (2014). Another Reason for Impeccable Oral Hygiene: Oral Hygiene-Sperm Count Link. The Journal Of Contemporary Dental Practice, 15(3), 352-358. doi: 10.5005/jp-journals-10024-1542

© 2019 Rachel Mascord. Website design by Enrich Digital Design

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