New data show periodontal treatment doesn't reduce preterm birth risk

Jan 29, 2009

The study, involving researchers from Duke University Medical Center and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is one of the largest randomized trials to date to look at the link between the two conditions.

Previous research had suggested that gum disease was associated with very preterm deliveries (defined as less than 32 weeks gestation). That led insurance policies and healthcare providers to recommend scaling and root planing, sometimes referred to as "deep cleaning," in pregnant women. It was thought that such care had the potential to reduce preterm delivery risk.

These new findings, based on a randomized trial of 1,800 pregnant women with periodontal disease, indicate that routine gum treatments do not reduce the risk of early delivery.

"I'm always asked whether we should mandate dental treatment for all pregnant women," said Amy Murtha, MD, director of obstetrics research at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, NC, who presented the findings at the annual meeting of the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine in San Diego. "The biggest implication of this study is that this level of standard periodontal care will not affect the birth outcome."

That's not to say pregnant women should not get dental exams and treatment as needed; they should, Murtha added. "Our study emphasizes that treating periodontal disease during pregnancy is safe, but that standard periodontal care is not enough."

Progression, or worsening of periodontal disease occurs in about 25 percent of pregnancies, said Steven Offenbacher, DDS, PhD, the study's lead investigator and director of the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Dentistry-based Center for Oral and Systemic Diseases. The bacterial infection attacks the teeth-supporting tissues below the gum line. Left untreated, it can lead to tooth loss as well as a host of other problems.

This study, conducted at Duke, the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the University of Texas at San Antonio, was overseen by the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Dentistry. Pregnant women with periodontal disease were randomly assigned to two groups: one received periodontal treatment before 23 weeks gestation; the other did not. Overall, no significant differences were reported regarding obstetric or neonatal outcomes when the two groups were compared.

Despite the findings, Murtha said much remains unknown about the relationship between the two conditions. "Periodontal disease and poor pregnancy outcomes travel together, but we don't know why."

Nor do researchers understand how or why pregnancy appears to jumpstart the onset and progression of the disease. Murtha said it may be that preterm birth and periodontal disease share a common underlying trait, such as an exaggerated inflammatory response, but more studies are needed to fully explain the connection.

Additional research is also needed to determine whether more intensive periodontal care during pregnancy might make a difference. "Although we did not reduce the risk of preterm births, the level of periodontal care provided in this study was not as effective as compared to earlier studies," Offenbacher said. It may be that a more aggressive approach to periodontal disease management could have a different outcome, he added.

Source: Duke University Medical Center

Explore further: Humiliation tops list of mistreatment toward med students

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Like parent, like child: Good oral health starts at home

May 17, 2010

Parents are a child's first teacher in life and play a significant role in maintaining his or her overall health. Providing oral health education to mothers and families is essential to teaching children healthy habits and ...

Good oral health is essential during pregnancy

May 17, 2010

It's no secret that pregnancy is an important time in a woman's life. While women often hear about how pregnancy causes physical changes that affect their hormone or appetite levels, these changes can have a great effect ...

Even healthy pregnant women need to worry about oral bacteria

May 10, 2010

Even healthy pregnant women can be at risk for pregnancy problems caused by oral bacteria. Researchers from Case Western Reserve University began to understand which bacteria from the 700 species living in the mouth are responsible ...

Recommended for you

Humiliation tops list of mistreatment toward med students

1 hour ago

Each year thousands of students enroll in medical schools across the country. But just how many feel they've been disrespected, publicly humiliated, ridiculed or even harassed by their superiors at some point during their ...

Surrogate offers clues into man with 16 babies

9 hours ago

When the young Thai woman saw an online ad seeking surrogate mothers, it seemed like a life-altering deal: $10,000 to help a foreign couple that wanted a child but couldn't conceive.

Nurses go on strike in Ebola-hit Liberia

9 hours ago

Nurses at Liberia's largest hospital went on strike on Monday, demanding better pay and equipment to protect them against a deadly Ebola epidemic which has killed hundreds in the west African nation.

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge arrives in North Korea

Aug 31, 2014

It's pretty hard to find a novel way to do the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge by now, but two-time Grammy-winning rapper Pras Michel, a founding member of the Fugees, has done it—getting his dousing in the center ...

Cold cash just keeps washing in from ALS challenge

Aug 28, 2014

In the couple of hours it took an official from the ALS Association to return a reporter's call for comment, the group's ubiquitous "ice bucket challenge" had brought in a few million more dollars.

User comments : 0