Approximately 12 percent of babies born in the United States are preterm (less than 37 weeks), placing them at increased risk for developing health problems, including congenital defects, asthma, cerebral palsy and impaired sight and hearing. A leading researcher suggests that a healthy mouth may reduce the number of premature babies born and the complications that result.
“Our findings indicate that periodontal disease progression during pregnancy contributes to preterm deliveries, and especially very preterm deliveries (less than 32 weeks) which places the baby at high risk for neonatal problems and disability,” says Steven Offenbacher, DDS, PhD, professor, Department of Periodontics, University of North Carolina school of Dentistry, Chapel Hill. “Multicentered trials, sponsored by the National Institute of Cental and Crainiofacial Research, are currently underway to examine whether intervention by maternal gum treatment during pregancy will reduce the risk for prematurity and possibly prevent periodontal disease-related pregnancy complications.”
Dr. Offenbacher, who also directs the UNC Center for Oral and Systemic Diseases, spoke at the American Medical Association and the American Dental Association media briefing, Oral & Systemic Health: Exploring the Connection in New York City on February 23, 2006.
Premature low birth weight is an adverse outcome, likely to occur when the infant is born less than 37 weeks into gestation. Research shows prterm birth can occur as the result of inflammation and infection in the mothers body, which can interfere with pacental and fetal development and also trigger uterine contractions and cervical dilation leading to prematurity.
“Periodontal diseases are common gum infections caused by the bacteria that accumulate around the teeth, leading to local inflammation and bone loss. Like other infections in a mother’s body, the bacteria set off an inflammatory reaction. However, we have data to suggest that the oral bacteria can also serve as a systemic challenge to the mother’s body that may ultimately result in abnormal pregnancy outcomes.” explains Dr. Offenbacher.
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