Many people have an aversion to the dentist. However, research has shown that everyone, particularly pregnant women, would do well to visit their local dentist or hygienist. That is because gum disease can elevate future mothers' risk for a preterm birth - and that reducing their risk of gum disease can lower pregnant women's risk for preterm labor by a third.
A study conducted by researchers at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine found that pregnant women saw a 34 percent reduction in the risk of a preterm labor if they underwent a simple dental procedure. In a study published in the Journal of Periodontal Medicine, the researchers described how expectant mothers with a high risk of premature birth saw that risk cut by a third if they underwent a technique called scaling and root planing.
The American Dental Association says that the procedure consists of the dentist or hygienist cleaning below the gum line with a scaler or ultrasonic cleaner. Then the teeth's root surfaces are cleaned or planed, allowing the gum to heal and making it more difficult for plaque to accumulate.
The paper reaffirms how important oral health is during pregnancy. Experts said to the Daily Mail that pregnancy has been known to change many parts of a woman's body - including her gums. "Even those with good oral health will experience changes throughout pregnancy. Some women will find their gums will bleed more easily, a problem made worse if you are already suffering from gum disease," Nigel Carter, the Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, said.
Gum disease has been linked to some surprising health bedfellows. Some studies have found that gum disease can raise men's risk for erectile dysfunction, while another study has linked the dental problem with fertility issues.
A preterm birth is defined by doctors as having occurred before the pregnancy hit the 37-week mark. Nearly 500,000 - or 1 in 8 - infants are born preterm each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Premature births have been linked to various severe health ailments, like cerebral palsy, respiratory problems and hearing loss.