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Periodontal Disease and Pregnancy

Researchers have shown that periodontal disease in expectant mothers actually exposes their unborn child to many different risks, particularly if they also happen to be diabetes sufferers.

Periodontal disease generally begins with a bacterial infection in the gum (gingival) tissue, which progressively destroys the tissue and the underlying bone.  If left untreated, the bacterial infection causes an inflammatory reaction in the body, which can significantly deepen the gum pockets (space between the teeth and gums), and forces the gum and jawbone to recede.  Eventually, the progressive nature of periodontal disease causes the teeth to become loose and unstable, and eventually fall out.

Pregnancy causes many hormonal changes which increase the risk of the expectant mother to develop gingivitis (inflammation of the gum tissue) and periodontal disease.  These oral problems have been linked in many research studies to preeclampsia, low birth weight of the baby and premature birth.  Expectant women should seek immediate treatment for periodontal disease in order to reduce the risk of pre-natal and post-natal complications.

Reasons for the Connection

There are many different reasons why periodontal disease may affect the health of the mother and her unborn child:

  • Prostaglandin – Periodontal disease appears to elevate levels of prostaglandin in mothers who are suffering from the more advanced forms of the condition.  Prostaglandin is a labor-inducing compound found in one of the oral bacteria strains associated with periodontitis.  Elevated levels of prostaglandin can cause the mother to give birth prematurely and deliver a baby with a low birth weight.

  • C - reactive protein (CRP) – This protein, which has been previously linked to heart disease, has now been associated with adverse pregnancy outcomes including preeclampsia and premature birth.  Periodontal infections elevate C-reactive protein levels and amplify the body’s natural inflammatory response.  Periodontal bacteria may enter the bloodstream causing the liver to produce CRP which leads to inflamed arteries as well as possible blood clots.  These inflammatory effects can then lead to blocked arteries causing strokes or heart attacks.

  • Bacteria spread – The bacteria which colonize in the gum pockets can readily travel through the bloodstream and affect other parts of the body.  In pregnant women, research has found that oral bacteria and associated pathogens have colonized in the internal mammary glands and coronary arteries.

Diagnosis and Treatment

There are many safe, non surgical treatment options available for pregnant women.  It is of paramount importance to halt the progress of periodontal disease in order to increase the chances of a safe and healthy delivery.

Initially, the dentist will assess the exact condition of the gums and jawbone in order to make a precise diagnosis.  Scaling and root planing are two common non-surgical procedures used to rid the tooth-root surfaces of calculus (tartar) and remove the bacterial toxins from the gum pockets.

With treatment, the risks of pregnancy complications caused by periodontal disease are reduced by as much as 50%, and these treatments will alleviate many unpleasant and harmful effects associated with gingivitis and periodontal infection.

Dentists can provide education and recommendations to pregnant women about effective home care which can reduce risks that may affect her and/or her child’s health. Risks of periodontal disease can be vastly reduced by proper home care, smoking cessation, dietary changes, and the ingestion of supplementary vitamins.

If you have any questions or concerns about periodontal disease and its affect on pregnancy, please contact our practice.

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Testimonials

I just had to write to say how appreciative I am of Dr. Tsui. If you are looking for a dentist, look no further. She is kind, caring and does an amazing job. She makes sure there is no pain and does each job to perfection. I recently had a dental emergency and she was there in no time. On top of all of that, her office is like a spa with water falls and fountains. They have the glasses for you to watch a movie, which are a great distraction. The staff is stellar!!! The nicest staff of people I have ever meet, so professional and personable at the same time. I recommend Dr. Tsui to all my friends, I can't say enough wonderful things about her and her amazing staff.

Ashley F. (Patient gave permission for publication).

I've been a patient of Dr. Tsui's since Smile Creations first opened their doors in 2003. My parents and younger sister see Dr. Tsui as well, and all of us are pleased with the services we've received. My parents have received major work (crowns) and all of us have had cleanings, exams, and fillings done. Dr. Tsui's office is equipped with the latest technologies--digital x-rays, an intraoral camera, and video glasses so you can watch movies as you receive dental work. My parents have recently had more crowns done and in just one visit, Dr. Tsui completed the crown prep work on my parents and they waited in the office while the actual permanent crown was being made right in the office! I've never heard of other dental practices with this technology! My parents didn't need a temporary crown and they didn't need a second visit where crowns are typically sent to labs which can take 2 weeks on average. A call from Dr. Tsui's office is made the next day to check on the healing process and to answer any questions. My parents are quick to point out what a stellar job Dr. Tsui does when it comes to giving anesthetic injections. A numbing topical is applied first, and after a few minutes, Dr. Tsui will carefully and skillfully proceed with the injection into the cheek and gums. She talks you through the whole way so you know what's going on. I have a low pain tolerance and hate needles so she definitely eases my fears through her gentleness and I walk away thinking that the injection hurt less than expected! Dr. Tsui works with a range of patients from the elderly to adolescents. The bi-lingual (English and Chinese) speaking staff including Dr. Tsui herself, allows her to relate and work with multiple generations of people. I have only positive kudos and express my sincere thanks for the gentle and professional dental work that my family and I have received from Dr. Tsui and her staff. I would highly recommend Dr. Tsui for any and all dental care needs.

Andrea W.(Patient gave permission for publication).

Dear Dr. Tsui,

I want to thank you again for all of the great dental care you have provided to me over the years. As you know, I was referred to you years ago by my friend and former co-worker. She raved about how great you and your staff are. I started going to you for dental care about 6 or 7 years ago. 2 of those years, I was forced to change my dental insurance coverage and had to find a different dentist. I went to 2 or 3 different offices trying to find a good patient/doctor relationship....and, frankly, never did. When I went back to an insurer that included you in the network, I was so happy that I could continue my dental care with you.

As you know, I have had the need for 2 crowns recently. Although I can't say I enjoyed the experience, I can say that you and your staff made it as pleasant as possible and I have great confidence in the work that you do. You and your staff have consisently practiced thoroughness, attention to detail and excellent communication (before, during and after procedures). It is very obvious that you truly care about your patients' dental health and their comfort when having their teeth worked on. That makes such a big difference in patient care and I greatly appreciate it! I am happy with the work that you have done for my crowns and I will continue to go to you for any future work that may be needed.

Smile Creations is a wonderful dental care practice! Now, I am the one raving about you and your staff and I have encouraged numerous people to go to you for dental work. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

Cathy D.(Patient gave permission for publication).

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