Prevent premature babies with mouthwash

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Here’s good news for expectant moms with gum disease. A study shows that they’re less likely to have premature babies if they use mouthwash throughout their pregnancy.

The study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology said that pregnant women with gum disease or periodontal disease could cut their risk of delivering premature babies by three-quarters if they regularly used an alcohol-free mouthwash.

Although the results have been called “extremely encouraging” by Dr. Steven Offenbacher, a professor at the University of North Carolina’s School of Dentistry, more research needs to be done to firmly establish the relationship between premature babies and good oral health.

The study, which was funded by Procter and Gamble, involved 71 pregnant women with gum disease. The subjects were asked to rinse twice daily for 30 seconds with Crest Pro Health, an alcohol-free mouthwash. Researchers then compared the number of pre-term births among this group to 155 pregnant women with gum disease who rinsed only with water.


The results were surprising. In the water-only group, 34 mothers (one in five) had premature babies. In the mouthwash group, only four mothers (one in 20 births) delivered their babies prematurely.

Dr. Marjorie Jeffcoat, the lead author of the study and a professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine, called the difference between the two groups “incredible.” However, she said that the subjects were aware of the treatment they were getting which could have influenced the results.

Jeffcoat’s team is still unaware of the connection between the mouthwash and premature birth but the answer may lie in gum disease. This starts when bacteria on the teeth affect the gums.

As the gums become inflamed, this causes the production of prostaglandin E2—a hormone-like chemical that is also involved in labor. Jeffcoat believes the increased circulation of prostaglandin E2 in the body triggers early labor. This can be avoided by treating gum disease which, in turn reduces prostaglandin E2 levels and the risk of delivering premature babies.

In addition to mouthwash, aggressive teeth-cleaning may also fight gum disease during pregnancy. An early study found this to be safe for expectant mothers but its effects in premature birth is not clear at this time.

The nice thing about mouthwash is it is less-invasive than teeth cleaning and it usually costs less. However, Jeffcoat said this won’t help reduce pre-term birth if you don’t have periodontal disease to begin with. But most dentists say it’s important for pregnant women to take good care of their teeth.

“They need to use a soft toothbrush and floss the right way. The first goal with almost all dental disease is prevention, prevention, prevention,” Jeffcoat concluded.

***
Dr. Joseph D. Lim is the dean of the National University College of Dentistry, president & CEO of Dr. Smile Dental Care & Laser Center and honorary fellow of the Asian Oral Implant Academy and the Japan College of Oral Implantologists. For questions on dental health, e-mail jdlim2008@gmail.com or text 0917-8591515.

Here’s good news for expectant moms with gum disease. A study shows that they’re less likely to have premature babies if they use mouthwash throughout their pregnancy.

The study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology said that pregnant women with gum disease or periodontal disease could cut their risk of delivering premature babies by three-quarters if they regularly used an alcohol-free mouthwash.

Although the results have been called “extremely encouraging” by Dr. Steven Offenbacher, a professor at the University of North Carolina’s School of Dentistry, more research needs to be done to firmly establish the relationship between premature babies and good oral health.

The study, which was funded by Procter and Gamble, involved 71 pregnant women with gum disease. The subjects were asked to rinse twice daily for 30 seconds with Crest Pro Health, an alcohol-free mouthwash. Researchers then compared the number of pre-term births among this group to 155 pregnant women with gum disease who rinsed only with water.

The results were surprising. In the water-only group, 34 mothers (one in five) had premature babies. In the mouthwash group, only four mothers (one in 20 births) delivered their babies prematurely.

Dr. Marjorie Jeffcoat, the lead author of the study and a professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine, called the difference between the two groups “incredible.” However, she said that the subjects were aware of the treatment they were getting which could have influenced the results.

Jeffcoat’s team is still unaware of the connection between the mouthwash and premature birth but the answer may lie in gum disease. This starts when bacteria on the teeth affect the gums.

As the gums become inflamed, this causes the production of prostaglandin E2—a hormone-like chemical that is also involved in labor. Jeffcoat believes the increased circulation of prostaglandin E2 in the body triggers early labor. This can be avoided by treating gum disease which, in turn reduces prostaglandin E2 levels and the risk of delivering premature babies.

In addition to mouthwash, aggressive teeth-cleaning may also fight gum disease during pregnancy. An early study found this to be safe for expectant mothers but its effects in premature birth is not clear at this time.

The nice thing about mouthwash is it is less-invasive than teeth cleaning and it usually costs less. However, Jeffcoat said this won’t help reduce pre-term birth if you don’t have periodontal disease to begin with. But most dentists say it’s important for pregnant women to take good care of their teeth.

“They need to use a soft toothbrush and floss the right way. The first goal with almost all dental disease is prevention, prevention, prevention,” Jeffcoat concluded.

***
Dr. Joseph D. Lim is the dean of the National University College of Dentistry, president & CEO of Dr. Smile Dental Care & Laser Center and honorary fellow of the Asian Oral Implant Academy and the Japan College of Oral Implantologists. For questions on dental health, e-mail jdlim2008@gmail.com or text 0917-8591515.

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