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Periodontal protein linked to dangerous condition for expecting mothers

Researchers in Israel have discovered a link between periodontal disease and a disorder that is potentially deadly for five to eight percent of pregnant women and their unborn babies-preeclampsia.

The study, detailed in the January 2005 issue of Journal of Periodontology, examined the periodontal condition of 15 pregnant women with and 15 without preeclampsia. Researchers performed full mouth examinations on the women up to 48 hours before delivery and collected gingival fluid to measure protein levels.

Proteins known as cytokines have previously been associated with the cause of preeclampsia, researchers say, but this study is the first to link periodontal disease cytokine to preeclampsia.

According to the Preeclampsia Foundation, preeclampsia is a rapidly progressive condition characterized by high blood pressure and the presence of protein in the urine. Symptoms include swelling, sudden weight gain, headaches and changes in vision but some women report few symptoms. Preeclampsia occurs only during pregnancy and the postpartum period and affects both the mother and the unborn baby. An estimated 5 to 8 percent of pregnancies are affected by the disorder.

Typically, preeclampsia occurs in middle to late pregnancy, though it can occur earlier. Proper prenatal care is essential to diagnose and manage preeclampsia. Researchers hope that prevention and treatment to eliminate periodontal disease in pregnant women can help reduce the incidence of preeclampsia.

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

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