Gum health and pregnancy

The links between infertility/difficult conception and gum disease were described in this article.

Although the presence of gum disease can make falling pregnant difficult, it is a fact that some women with this condition do fall pregnant. This is a lovely outcome for them, however the presence of poor gum health at this time poses the risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes.

They include:

  • Increased risk of premature birth,

  • Increased risk of the baby having low birth weight,

  • Greater chance of the mother developing pre-eclampsia (a potentially dangerous condition with high blood pressure, protein in the urine and fluid retention).

  • Increased risk of miscarriage and stillbirth.

Once the connection between gum disease and these risks were observed, dental researchers worldwide conducted studies to determine the benefit of gum treatment during pregnancy to improve pregnancy outcomes.

Unfortunately, the results of these studies suggested that treatment during pregnancy is probably too late to be of benefit to the developing baby.

The proposed reason is that the establishment of the placenta on the lining of the uterus has already been compromised by:

  • Chemicals (cytokines) produced by the chronic inflammation associated with gum disease. These chemicals affect the whole body.

  • Self-attacking antibodies that gum disease stimulates our immune system to produce.

  • The bacteria themselves entering the blood stream and affecting distant parts of the body.

  • The toxins they produce entering the blood stream.

It has been stated that potential harm to mother and baby from gum disease is equivalent to the harm from the use of alcohol and cigarettes during pregnancy.

The practical implications and applications of this knowledge.

  • Although studies imply that treatment of gum disease does not improve current pregnancy outcomes, there are still very important reasons to treat your gums as soon as possible - for the sake of your own health, and for the child after they are born.

  • Note that gum treatment during pregnancy has been described as safe, but always check with your obstetrician prior to seeing your dentist.

  • If you are planning to fall pregnant, make sure that a thorough dental examination and treatment of any disease are an important and non-negotiable element of your preparation.

  • Develop a consistent oral hygiene routine, not only in preparation for and through your pregnancy, but throughout your life thereafter. This is essential for your own health. It also makes you a great role model for your children and helps them establish a good relationship with their dental health.

It is extraordinary that there is not more widespread knowledge of the impacts of poor gum health on pregnancy, especially when some of the scientific studies into this problem were conducted in the early 2000's.

We can no longer ignore the fact that poor dental health has far reaching and profound impacts on the health of the whole body. When we care for our dental health, our whole body and the next generation of our family benefits to an incredible degree.


Offenbacher S., Beck J.D.(2001). Periodontitis: a potential risk factor for spontaneous preterm birth. Compend Contin Educ Dent. 22(2 Spec No):17-20.

Shub A., Wong C., Jennings B., Swain J.R., Newnham J.P. (2009). Maternal periodontal disease and perinatal mortality. Aust N Z J Obstet Gynaecol. 49(2):130-6. DOI: 10.1111/j.1479-828x.2009.00953.x

Newnham J.P., Newnham I.A., Ball C.M., Wright M., Pennell C.E., Swain J., Doherty D.A. (2009). Treatment of periodontal disease during pregnancy: a randomized controlled trial. Obstet Gynecol. 114(6):1239-48. doi: 10.1097/AOG.0b013e3181c15b40.

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.

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