Fertility and pregnancy

Floss regularly if you want to conceive

Floss regularly if you want to get pregnant Gum disease delays pregnancy

Women who are trying for a baby should regularly brush and floss their teeth, research has found.

An Australian study found that women with gum disease took over seven months to become pregnant, compared to an average of five months for women without gum disease.

The two month delay in becoming pregnant due to gum disease was of the same order of magnitude as being obese, a fertility conference in Sweden was told.

Gum disease has already been linked to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, respiratory and kidney disease, and problems in pregnancy such as miscarriage and premature birth.

But this new study is the first to suggest that it can also lengthen the time it takes for a woman to become pregnant.

Researchers from the University of Western Australia tracked a group 3416 pregnant women who went on to give birth.

Women with gum disease took an average of just over seven months to become pregnant compared with an average of five months in women with healthy gums.

In addition, non-Caucasian women with gum disease took over a year to become pregnant compared to those without gum disease.

The researchers think that inflammation triggered by oral bacteria sets off a cascade of events which can lead to tissue damage.

Non-Caucasian women appeared to have a higher level of inflammatory response to the condition, the researchers said. This may be the reason why they were more affected by gum disease.

Around one in ten people are thought to have severe periodontal disease, which is best prevented by regular brushing and flossing.

Roger Hart, professor of reproductive medicine at the University of Western Australia, said: “Until now, there have been no published studies that investigate whether gum disease can affect a woman’s chance of conceiving, so this is the first report to suggest that gum disease might be one of several factors that could be modified to improve the chances of a pregnancy.”

“All women about to plan for a family should be encouraged to see their general practitioner to ensure that they are as healthy as possible before trying to conceive and so that they can be given appropriate lifestyle advice with respect to weight loss, diet and assistance with stopping smoking and drinking, plus the commencement of folic acid supplements.

"Additionally, it now appears that all women should also be encouraged to see their dentist to have any gum disease treated before trying to conceive. It is easily treated, usually involving no more than four dental visits.

The study findings were presented at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology annual meeting in Stockholm, Sweden.

This article was published on Wed 6 July 2011

Image © Karen Roach - Fotolia.com

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