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Periodontal disease: A risk factor for adverse pregnancy outcomes

Certain oral bacteria have been linked to pregnancy complications, such as stillbirth, postbirth sepsis and premature birth. Pregnant women are therefore advised to consult with their dentists on a regular basis.

Although a number of studies have already suggested a link between periodontal disease and adverse pregnancy outcomes, the matter remains debateable. Therefore, researchers in South Africa have now tested the hypothesis that periodontal disease is a risk indicator for preterm delivery of low-birthweight infants and found further evidence for correlation of the two conditions.

The study included 443 pregnant women with a mean age of about 24 years. At first visit, maternal oral health status was assessed by the measurement of probing pocket depth and clinical attachment loss, and periodontal status was graded as absent, mild, moderate or severe.

While controlling for other factors, significant associations were found between pregnancy outcomes and maternal periodontal index scores.

The FDI World Dental Federation highlights that a child’s oral health begins in utero. Poor maternal oral health and malnutrition during pregnancy might lead to preterm birth or low birthweight, disruptions in enamel formation and a predisposition to early childhood caries.

The study, titled “Further evidence for periodontal disease as a risk indicator for adverse pregnancy outcomes”, was published online on 17 December in the International Dental Journal ahead of print. It was conducted at the University of the Western Cape.

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