Significant association between gingivitis and preterm birth

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Pregnant women will want to include a periodontal evaluation as part of their prenatal care. That's because researchers found that periodontal treatment significantly reduced the risk of having a preterm birth or a low birthweight infant, according to a study published in the Journal of Periodontology.

"We found a significant association between gingivitis and preterm birth after adjusting for the major risk factors for preterm delivery, suggesting that gingivitis, the earliest form of periodontal disease, is an independent risk factor for preterm birth and low birthweight," said Dr. Néstor J. López, Professor of the University of Chile. "Periodontal therapy reduced preterm birth and low birthweight infant rates by 68 percent in women with pregnancy-associated gingivitis."

This is in concordance with two other intervention studies in which periodontal treatment reduced the incidence of preterm births and low birth weight infants between 71 percent and 84 percent in pregnant women with moderate to severe chronic periodontitis.

"Ideally, women should begin their pregnancy without periodontal infections, and they should be educated and motivated to maintain a high level of oral hygiene prior to and throughout pregnancy," said López. "If periodontal infection is diagnosed at any time during pregnancy, the treatment should be administered as soon as possible in order to reduce the risk of preterm birth and low birthweight."

"Pregnancy-associated gingivitis is a preventable and easy to treat disease," explains Kenneth A. Krebs, DMD and AAP president. "Although it is still not known what are the precise mechanisms involved in the association between periodontal infections and preterm birth, to date, no harmful damaging effect caused by periodontal intervention in pregnant women has been reported."

High health care costs are generated by preterm birth, and any strategy that reduces the preterm birth rate is likely to produce both health and economic benefits for mothers and infants. "The real cost saving is best represented by the lives of children saved from premature death and biological and social impairment," said Lopez.

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