Research Shows Elevated Oral Health Risk in Pregnant Women

Posted on August 31, 2017

MADRID, Aug. 31, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Data from the Oral Hygiene and Maternity Outcomes Multicenter (OHMOM) study were presented today at the World Dental Congress (WDC) in Madrid, Spain. Research conducted by the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Alabama - Birmingham, with support from Procter & Gamble (P&G), makers of Crest and Oral-B Oral Care brands, found that the occurrence and severity of pregnancy gingivitis substantially exceeded national averages, with evidence of substantial disease onset across broad demographic and socio-economic sub-groups beginning in the first trimester of pregnancy.

Gingivitis is caused by the accumulation of plaque bacteria on teeth, particularly along the gumline. Plaque irritates the gums and stimulates a chronic inflammatory response, causing them to become red, swollen, tender and bleed easily during brushing or flossing.1 Pregnant women have a higher risk of developing gum disease because of hormonal shifts, which affect baseline physiology and inflammatory reactions in the body.2

The OHMOM study evaluated 648 women (age 18-46 years) who were between 8-26 weeks of pregnancy to determine oral health and maternity outcomes. Findings from baseline measurements provide important insight on the epidemiology of pregnancy gingivitis. Study results showed moderate-to-severe gingivitis during pregnancy was common, with onset in the first trimester. Severity was extraordinarily high –averaging 51.1 bleeding sites – which represents nearly one-third of the gingiva with inflammation and bleeding. This disease level is approximately three times higher in pregnant women compared to the average adult. Risk was nearly universal, and typical health disparity factors like ethnicity, socio-economic and insurance coverage did not significantly impact disease levels. 

"This new research provides a clear perspective on the epidemiology of gingivitis during pregnancy, and particularly on the universality and severity of gingivitis," said Robert W. Gerlach, DDS, MPH, Research Fellow, Worldwide Clinical Investigations, Procter & Gamble. "Women likely have their highest levels of gingival inflammation – with nearly one-third of the gingiva bleeding – during pregnancy." Dr. Gerlach reported "with the proper education and oral hygiene, pregnancy gingivitis can be effectively managed, leading to improved oral health for expectant mothers." Some studies indicate there may be an association between poor maternal oral health and pre-term birth.3

What This Means for Moms-to-be

If you are pregnant or considering becoming pregnant, do not ignore your oral health. A healthy mouth is an important part of a healthy pregnancy. Visit your dental professional regularly, make sure your toothpaste and mouthrinse are made to fight gingivitis - many choices do not contain anti-gingivitis ingredients. Remove more plaque with better brushing and regular flossing. Switching to an electric toothbrush, for example, can make a big difference in consumers' at home plaque removal.

About the Study4

To evaluate the relationships of oral health and maternity outcomes, comprehensive baseline evaluations involved three areas: 1) pertinent demographic, socio-economic and behavioral parameters, 2) medical, pregnancy and medication history, and 3) oral/periodontal health including whole mouth clinical measurement of gingivitis bleeding sites via the Loe-Silness Gingivitis Index. Regression analysis was used to model relationships between baseline parameters and gingivitis status during pregnancy.        

The study was supported by P&G Oral Care.

 

1 Merck & Co., Inc. (2009). Gingivitis. The Merck Manuals Online Medical Library. Retrieved February 24, 2010, from http://www.merck.com/mmpe/sec08/ch095/ch095c.html

2 Offenbacher, S. "What Every Woman Needs to Know," Scientific American: Oral and Whole Body Health (2006).

3 Glick, Michael. "The Oral-Systemic Health Connection: A Guide to Patient Care." Quintessence (2014).

4 Gerlach, R.W. et al. (in press). Epidemiology of Pregnancy Gingivitis: Evidence from the OHMOM Study. Int. Dent. J. (2017).

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