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Researchers Claim Gum Disease Linked To Premature Delivery

Posted November 14, 2001

— What mothers do during pregnancy plays a big role in their child's health. Now we are learning even more about what it takes to have a healthy baby.

A lot of women get check-ups and take pre-natal vitamins before they are pregnant. Now, there is increasing research to suggest you should pay a visit to your dentist as well.

Researchers at the

UNC School of Dentistry

recently discovered that pregnant women with gum disease are more likely to deliver prematurely.

"It looks like the effects of periodontal disease on pre-term labor may be as important as well-known risk factors such as smoking and alcohol use," said Dr. Steven Offenbacher, director of the Center for Oral Diseases.

Researchers believe bacteria from the gum disease enters the mother's blood stream and travels to the baby through the placenta. The bacteria attacks the tissue, causing inflammation and ultimately, labor.

To help reduce your risk of gum disease, experts suggest brushing and flossing daily. Gum disease usually has few symptoms. It is important to get your teeth and gums checked before pregnancy or as soon as you find out you are pregnant.

While researchers are still learning about the link between gum disease and early labor, they believe taking care of your mouth now will help you have a healthy baby later.

"There are many things which we cannot control, but this is something we can prevent and treat," Offenbacher said.

Research conducted at other universities supports these findings. In fact, a separate study found that women with gum disease may be up to seven times more likely to deliver a premature baby.


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