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More evidence shows poor oral health increases preterm birth risk

A new study finds that a pregnant woman is at risk for delivering a preterm, low birth weight baby if the woman's mouth has high levels of the bacteria that causes cavities.

The study, published in the Journal of Periodontology, is more evidence that a pregnant woman's own oral health is important to the overall health of her newborn.

The research team from New York University studied 297 women for the amount of Actinomyces naeslundii genospecies 2, an oral bacterium associated with dental caries, in their mouths.

The researchers found that a tenfold increase in bacterial levels was associated with a 60-gram decrease in birth weight, plus a nearly 0.17 week (1.19 days) decrease in length of pregnancy.

The researchers believe the oral bacteria can travel to the woman's uterus. Once there, the bacteria can cause the woman's body to produce "proinflammatory mediators" as a response to those bacteria.

Unfortunately, proinflammatory mediator molecules also can lead to uterine contractions and cervical dilation. Cervical dilation, in turn, allows more bacteria to enter, and eventually this can cause the uterine membranes to rupture.

The result is preterm birth.

So if you're pregnant, or just thinking about having a baby, take good care of your oral health, and visit the dentist for a checkup.

Please contact the ADA if you have questions about this article.

©2010 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

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