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Gum Disease and Preterm Labor

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An interactive resource for moms on easy steps they can take to reduce exposure to chemical toxins during pregnancy.

Other excellent resources about avoiding toxins during pregnancy

These are easy to read and understand and are beautifully presented.

UPI Science News

NEW ORLEANS, Oct. 8, 1996 (UPI) -- Women who suffer from gum disease are seven times more likely to have preterm low birthweight babies than moms without gum disease, researchers said Tuesday.

A study of 124 women and their babies has for the first time linked gum disease with the bad effects on pregnancy known for infections in the urinary tract, said Steven Offenbacher, from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Dentistry.

``The exciting thing about this is that it's a new clue,'' Offenbacher told United Press International.

The known risks for delivering a preterm baby -- such as smoking, drinking alcohol, skipping prenatal care or developing a urinary tract infection -- fail to explain a quarter of the preterm babies, he said. The new study raises hopes for explaining some of these mystery cases and possibly intervening to prevent them.

In the United States, 10 percent of babies weigh dangerously little, less than 5 pounds eight ounces at birth. Trying to nurse them to a healthy stage of development requires more than $5 billion a year.

``Given the emotional, psychological and financial impact of premature delivery of low birthweight babies, it seems essential that we continue to try and find the causes,'' Offenbacher said.

He cautioned that his new study was the first stage of research and did not show that gum disease actually caused the preterm deliveries, only that the infections were associated with bad pregnancy outcomes.

``This study, even with its limitations, clearly shows that there is an association,'' said James Mellonig, president of the American Academy of Periodontology. ``We think that pregnant women and their obstetricians need to be aware of these findings.''

Offenbacher presented his results at a meeting of the periodontists' academy in New Orleans.

Offenbacher pointed out that other infections raise the risks of preterm delivery and that gum infections might cause equally harmful biological changes in the mother's body. Infections pump up the natural levels of such substances as prostaglandin E2, which Offenbacher notes is used in abortion pills.

The gums have the same surface area as the inside of the forearm, he said. For an area that large, ``if everytime you touched it, pus came out, you'd worry.''

Gum disease, however, is not always as easy to spot as a reddened forearm. Some sufferers have bleeding gums or bad breath, but often, ``it's a silent disease,'' he said. ``You can't just smile and tell.''

He hesitated at issuing a blanket recommendation for all pregnant women at this stage in his research but said ``It's not unreasonable that a prenatal visit would be to a periodontist.''

(Written by UPI Science Writer Susan Milius in Washington) 

This Web page is referenced from another page containing related information about Preterm Labor


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