The treatment of gum disease may be a contributing factor in keeping premature birth at bay. A study published by BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology reports a significant link between periodontitis and preterm birth.

There are many factors that can cause premature birth including consumption of alcohol while pregnant and smoking. A new addition to that list may be gum infection. A total of 322 expecting women participated in the research group. All women were diagnosed as having gum disease. Two treatment methods were given during the study. One half of the pregnant women were given verbal instructions on how to care for gum disease. The remaining women were given the same verbal instructions, but also received cleaning above and below the gum line.

Premature births occurred in 52.4% of the untreated population and 45.6% among women who underwent gum cleaning. Researchers noted the difference between the two groups was minimal, at best. But, when doctors compared the effect of periodontal treatment on premature birth rates a significant difference was noted.

About 50 women from the treatment group responded to periodontal treatment with reduced swelling and reduced infection. Only 8% of this small group gave birth to premature babies. Of the 111 remaining women, 69 or 62% gave birth to preterm infants.

While the study shows significant connection between periodontal disease and premature delivery, about 88% of the participants were African-American. Future studies will need to be larger and more ethnically diverse in order to hold weight in the obstetric community.

Until future studies can be completed, pregnant women are advised to have regular dental check-ups and preventative care or treatment while pregnant if periodontal disease is diagnosed.

Source: M. Jeffcoat, S. Parry, M. Sammel, B. Clothier, A. Catlin, G. Macones. BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. 16 September 2010.