For reasons we don’t totally understand pregnant women who have gum disease are more likely to have premature babies than pregnant women who don’t. Now a study suggests that using mouthwash on a regular basis can reduce the odds of going into premature labor for women with gum disease/periodontal disease.
Using an alcohol-free mouthwash reduced risk of premature birth by about three quarters.
The study was conducted in part by a company that sells mouthwash, however the results are pretty impressive and were published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
Dr. Steven Offenbacher, a professor at the University of North Carolina’s School of Dentistry, who wasn’t a part of the study called the results, “extremely encouraging.” Adding, “We haven’t known the best way to manage these patients.”
Researchers asked a group of 71 pregnant women with periodontal disease to rinse two times a day with alcohol-free Crest Pro Health mouthwash. Compared to a group of 155 pregnant women with periodontal disease who only rinsed with water, the Crest group had far fewer premature births. The Crest group had about 1 in 20 premature babies whereas the water-only group had about 1 in 5.
The researchers don’t know exactly how or even if the mouthwash made the difference but it may have to do with prostaglandin E2– a hormone-like substance prevalent in gum disease that is also associated with labor. Perhaps the prostaglandins build up in mom’s system and eventually trigger labor?
It’s often surprising to pregnant women to learn how much their mouths are affected by pregnancy. Many woman have sensitive gums and bleed when they brush— this does not mean gum disease. But it’s worth going to the dentist early to prevent problems from starting. Women should brush with a soft brush and floss. Deep teeth-cleaning is also used to combat gum disease during pregnancy but it’s unclear whether this treatment help reduces the chances of premature labor (more research is needed.)