The findings of a study presented last week at the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine’s (SMFM) annual meeting, suggest that women who take care of their periodontal health during pregnancy with alcohol free antibacterial mouthwash, reduce their chances of preterm birth.
Researchers enrolled 204 pregnant women at 6-20 weeks gestation. All of them had periodontal disease which can cause the gums and the bone around the teeth to decay. None of them were receiving dental care. A group of 49 women were given a antimicrobial, alcohol-free mouthwash containing cetyl pyridinium chloride (CPC), to be used twice daily.
The rates of preterm birth were two thirds lower in this group than in the control group of 155 women.
Only 6.1 percent of the mouthwash using women had premature deliveries, compared to 21.9 percent of those who didn’t rinse. Researchers factored in age, smoking, and alcohol consumption. The controlled blind clinical study was funded by Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and The Procter & Gamble Company.
Marjorie Jeffcoat, D.M.D., one of the study’s authors, stated, “These results were so dramatic. There is a public health responsibility, in fact, to know what we found, to repeat it, to find out who should get it.”
It’s unclear what is going on here but the theory is that it has something to do with a pregnant woman’s extra susceptibility to bacterial infections– if the gums become severely affected, the infection could trigger labor. This study adds to evidence that dental care in pregnancy is important; a few questions I’d have for further research are these:
1. How does mouthwash affect the population of pregnant women who do not have periodontal disease in pregnancy? and 2. What about women who have periodontal disease and seek dental treatment early and throughout pregnancy?
My guess is the answer is something like: dental care is very important during pregnancy as the gums are particularly vulnerable to infection. Maybe dental treatments should be covered under prenatal care?