Periodontitis during pregnancy could result in preterm birth of your baby

Periodontitis during pregnancy could result in preterm birth of your baby

Periodontitis during pregnancy poses a risk for low birth weight infants and premature labour. Read on to know more about this disease and how to prevent it

An untreated gum infection during pregnancy could result in preterm birth of your baby. Researchers have shown that periodontal disease in expectant mothers actually exposes their unborn child to many different risks, particularly if they also happen to be diabetes sufferers.

A 2014 study suggests that periodontitis during pregnancycoupled with increased appetite and lowered frequency of brushing is associated with preterm birth.


Peridontitis is a serious gum infection that damages the soft tissues in the mouth and gradually destroys the teeth. It can cause loss of teeth and increases the risk of heart attacks.

“Periodontal disease generally begins with a bacterial infection in the gum (gingival) tissue, which progressively destroys the tissue and the underlying bone,” Dr Ambika Arora Tiwari, oral physician and maxillofacial radiologist based in Mumbai, tells “If left untreated, the bacterial infection causes an inflammatory reaction in the body, which can significantly deepen the gum pockets (space between the teeth and gums) and forces the gum and jawbone to recede.”

She adds that the progressive nature of periodontal disease causes the teeth to become loose and unstable, and to eventually fall out.

periodontitis during pregnancy

The progressive nature of periodontal disease causes the teeth to become loose and unstable, and to eventually fall out, and may lead to birth of underweight babies

Periodontitis during pregnancy is especially dangerous. “Pregnancy causes many hormonal changes, which increase the risk of the expectant mother to develop gingivitis (inflammation of the gum tissue) and periodontal disease,” says Dr Tiwari.

She lists the following health problems that preidontitis has been linked with:

  • Preeclampsia
  • Low birth weight of the baby (less than 2.5kg)
  • Preterm birth (less that 37 weeks)
  • Preterm labour or preterm pre-labour rupture of the membranes (PPROM)
  • Post-caesarean endometritis

Symptoms of Periodontitis

An early detection of periodontitis can help control the problem and cure this disease from the root. You must check for the following symptoms:

  • Swollen gums
  • Tender gums, especially when touched
  • Change of gum colour from pink to purple or bright red
  • Receding gums thereby, making the teeth longer
  • Bad breath
  • Bad taste in the mouth
  • Additional space between the teeth
  • Loose teeth
  • Pus in between teeth
  • Teeth shift, especially when you bite into something

Continue reading to know more about the risk factors of periodontitis during pregnancy

Risk Factors of Periodontitis During Pregnancy

There are many reasons that make periodontitis during pregnancya harmful disease for an expecting mother. Dr Tiwari lists the following connections to this problem:

  • Periodontal infections elevate C-reactive protein levels and amplify the body’s natural inflammatory response. Periodontal bacteria may enter the bloodstream, causing the liver to produce CRP which leads to inflamed arteries as well as possible blood clots. These inflammatory effects can then lead to blocked arteries causing strokes or heart attacks.
  • Periodontal disease appears to elevate levels of prostaglandin in mothers. “Elevated levels of prostaglandin can cause the mother to give birth prematurely and deliver a baby with a low birth weight,” she says.
  • In pregnant women, research has found that oral bacteria and associated pathogens have colonized in the internal mammary glands and coronary arteries.

Apart from these periodontitis may also affect the pathogenesis of a number of systemic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, bacterial pneumonia and diabetes mellitus.

There are many factors that can increase the risk of periodontitis during pregnancy, such as:

  • Hormonal changes during pregnancy and menopause
  • Poor oral health habits
  • Gingivitis
  • Diabetes
  • Older age
  • Smoking
  • Genetic
  • Lowered immunity
  • Poor nutrition
  • Poorly fitted dentures
periodontitis during pregnancy

Poor oral health and poorly fitted dentures can be the major risk factors leading to periodontitis during pregnancy

Diagnosis and Treatment

The diagnosis of periodontitis during pregnancyis simple procedure. “Initially, the dentist will assess the exact condition of the gums and jawbone in order to make a precise diagnosis,” says Dr Tiwari.

She lists the following precautions that an expecting mother must take once the physical treatment is over:

  • Periodontal treatment must be followed by good oral hygiene in order for the inflammation to remain under control.
  • Resolution of inflammation caused by periodontitis may be the most important outcome for preventing preterm birth. “Thus instructing and motivating the woman to clean her teeth properly is an important component of periodontal treatment,” says Dr Tiwari.
  • Expectant women should seek immediate treatment for periodontal disease in order to reduce the risk of pre-natal and post-natal complications.

There are two types of treatments for periodontitis during pregnancy- non-surgical and surgical.

Continue reading to know more about the non-surgical and surgical treatments of periodontitis during pregnancy

Non-surgical treatments

There are many safe, non-surgical treatment options available for pregnant women. “It is of paramount importance to halt the progress of periodontal disease in order to increase the chances of a safe and healthy delivery,” says Dr Tiwari.

These non-surgical treatments include:

  • Scaling: Scaling is a common non-surgical procedure used to rid the tooth-root surfaces of calculus (tartar) and remove the bacterial toxins from the gum pockets
  • Root planing: Root planing removes excess tartar and smoothes out the tooth surface to discourage further build-up of bacteria.
  • Antibiotics: Antibiotic rinses and mouth washes and even gels can eliminate infection-causing bacteria.

Surgical treatments

The surgical procedures to cure periodontitis during pregnancyinclude the following:

  • Soft tissue grafts: A small part of tissue from the roof of the mouth is grafted on the affected area where the soft tissue has eroded.
  • Flap surgery: Tiny incisions into the gums are made so they are better exposed for scaling and root planing.
  • Bone grafting: A bone that may be prepared from fragments of your bone is attached to the bone near the tooth that has corroded.
periodontitis during pregnancy

Many surgical as well as non-surgical procedures can help cure periodontitis during pregnancy

  • Guided tissue regeneration: A special piece of biocompatible fabric is placed between the tooth and the existing bone and the tooth. It allows the regrowth of bone that was destroyed by bacteria.
  • Enamel application: A special type of gel (that contains proteins present in human teeth enamel) is applied to the infected tooth.


The advantages to the pregnant woman are plentiful. The risks of pregnancy-related complications caused by periodontal disease are reduced by as much as 50 percent. Dr Tiwari says, “These treatments will ease out many unpleasant and harmful effects associated with gingivitis and periodontal infection.”

She adds that dentists can provide dental education and recommendations to the pregnant women on effective home care, which can reduce risks that may affect her and/or her child’s health. The following can also vastly reduce risks of periodontal disease:

  • Proper home care
  • Use of softer brush
  • Daily floss
  • Brushing twice a day
  • Using mouth rinse after every meal
  • Smoking cessation
  • Dietary changes
  • Ingestion of supplementary vitamins, as advised

Although as an expecting mother, you will be eating for your baby as well, maintaining a good oral hygiene is extremely important. Eat right, but also make sure you are cleaning up right!

If you have any more questions regarding periodontitis during pregnancy, please ask in our Comment box below. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Google+ and Twitter to stay up-to-date on the latest from

Written by

Deepshikha Punj

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