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Gum disease linked with inflammation marker in expectant mothers

New research shows that pregnant women with gum inflammation have a higher level of a protein associated with adverse pregnancy outcomes than women with healthy gums.

C-reactive protein levels are a marker of systemic inflammation and are associated with periodontal disease, a chronic bacterial infection in the gums. CRP is also associated with adverse pregnancy outcomes like preeclampsia and preterm delivery.

The study shows that expectant mothers with periodontitis had 65 percent higher CRP levels compared to women with healthy gums. Periodontitis is a more serious destructive form of periodontal disease. In its earliest stages, periodontal disease is characterized by gingivitis, which is mild and reversible. If left untreated, gingivitis can become a periodontitis.

"Elevated CRP may indeed be caused by periodontal infection and inflammation," said lead researcher Dr. Waranuch Pitiphat of Khon Kaen University in Thailand. "If this is the case, CRP could amplify the inflammatory response and ultimately cause adverse pregnancy outcomes.

"Alternatively," he continued, "periodontal disease and CRP may share a common risk factor for predisposing individuals to a hyperinflammatory response. More research is clearly needed to further our understanding about the association between periodontal disease and adverse pregnancy outcomes."

Dr. Kenneth Krebs, president of the American Academy of Periodontology, said the study illustrates the importance of taking care of the entire body, including one’s oral health.

"In addition to this study about the relationship between CRP and pregnant women with periodontal disease, previous studies reported that inflammatory effects from periodontal disease could cause the liver to make proteins such as CRP that inflame arteries causing blood clots that contribute to heart attacks or strokes,”"said Dr. Krebs.

Past studies on the relationship between periodontal disease and CRP found that CRP levels decrease after standard nonsurgical periodontal therapy. This is the first study that looked at the association between CRP and periodontitis in pregnant women, according to the American Academy of Periodontology.

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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