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Research: Treating gingivitis reduces risk of preterm low-weight births

DENVER, Colo., USA: A recent study by Procter and Gamble, building on a decade-long research effort, confirms an ever-strengthening correlation between successful treatment of gingivitis during pregnancy and dramatically reducing the chances of a premature, low-weight birth. Dr. Robert Gerlach, a research fellow in worldwide clinical investigations at Procter & Gamble in Cincinnati, describes data from the study as “provocative and insightful.”

Gerlach went through a summary of the findings Oct. 20 with a number of dentists, hygienists and other dental professionals attending ADA 2016.

The Oral Hygiene and Maternity Outcomes Multicenter Study (yes, that works out to being “OHMOM”) monitored nearly 750 women with moderate to severe gingivitis during pregnancy, with the women following either a regular or advanced oral-care regimen.

The high prevalence of gingivitis during pregnancy has long been documented. But Gerlach noted that some of the most interesting data show that there is no difference in the chance of getting the illness during pregnancy based on socioeconomic status.

The odds were shown to be the same for wealthy patients with the easiest access to professional dental care as for poverty-level patients with limited access to care.

“The diagnosis level of bacteria in these two populations were identical,” Gerlach said.

After noting that pregnancy essentially guarantees onset of some level of gingivitis, Gerlach used the socioeconomic data to stress to the audience how critical it is to know as soon as possible if a patient is pregnant and to assume that a need for education, targeted preventative care and treatment exists not just for pregnant patients but potentially for virtually any patient of child-bearing age.

Gerlach shared statistics from a national study showing that pregnant patients appear to be underrepresented in dental-practice visits, probably because such patients are not offering the information or being asked. Awareness is critical, he said, because research indicates that the most effective time for intervention to address plaque and gingival bleeding is prior to pregnancy or as early as possible in the first trimester.

The recently completed OHMOM follow-up study showed that the patients using a power toothbrush (the Oral-B Genius was used) and dual-sequential toothpaste with hydrogen peroxide (Crest Pro Health HD was used in the study) reversed severity of the illness to the point of having no gingival bleeding within six weeks.

Gerlach acknowledged that currently there are only theories to explain the correlation between treating gingivitis and reducing the chance of premature and low-weight births. But until the precise science is confirmed, the results are compelling enough for the American Association of Women Dentists and the March of Dimes to have representatives at the event to address their organizations’ roles in working with Procter & Gamble in education efforts on pregnancy and oral health — for both oral health-care providers and their patients.

In response to audience questions about how to best convince pregnant and child-bearing-age patients of the critical link between their oral health and outcome of their pregnancy, Seth Meyers, senior development manager with the March of Dimes, shared statistics on the personal costs of a premature birth compared with a normal-term birth (an average of $75,000 in out-of-pocket vs. $7,500, respectively). Meyers noted that one in 10 births are premature.

Other communication strategies also were discussed, including placing graphic emphasis on health and appearance impacts on the mother. Attendees were encouraged to visit (sponsored by Crest Oral-B and the March of Dimes) to access literature and other tools. Attendees were also encouraged to contact P&G with further suggestions about how the company and its partners can help dental-care professionals support the broader effort of reducing the nation’s rate of premature births.

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