Could improved dental hygiene lower a mom-to-be's chances for preterm delivery? That's what researchers think after their tracking study of 204 at-risk pregnant women showed that those who used mouthwash in addition to brushing had much lower rates of early delivery than moms who skipped the rinse.
In the Proctor and Gamble-sponsored study presented February 11, 2011, before a meeting of the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine, researchers had moms identified as having periodontal disease (gingivitis, gum disease) use a non-alcohol antibacterial mouth rinse containing cetylpyridinium chloride, a type of mouthwash already sold in stores. Women started using the rinse between the 6th and 20th week of pregnancy and continued until birth. Compared to a group of moms with periodontal disease who refused dental care, women in the mouthwash group were much less likely to deliver their babies before 35 weeks.
"This research demonstrated that reducing the severity of periodontal disease has a direct correlation with preterm birth," says Marjorie Jeffcoat, DMD, one of the study's authors. "So, when we found that something as simple as mouthwash could change the outcomes, we were very excited."
Periodontal disease, commonly known as gum disease, is a chronic bacterial infection that affects the tissues that surround the teeth, including the gums and bones supporting the teeth. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), gum diseases, including gingivitis and periodontitis, are serious infections that, left untreated, can lead to increased risk for preterm birth. Pregnant women are more susceptible to periodontal disease due to hormonal changes that make the gums easier to irritate.
The best defense again poor dental hygiene? Schedule an appointment with your dentist for a thorough cleaning and oral checkup.