According to a new study, pregnant women who suffer from gum disease are less likely to give birth prematurely if they use mouthwash throughout their pregnancy. Mums-to-be who have gum disease are known to be more likely to deliver a premature baby than women with healthy gums. However, it is still unclear whether the link is causal or whether better oral hygiene makes a difference to the baby.
The research did find, however, that regularly using an alcohol-free mouth rinse appeared to cut these women’s risk of premature labour by roughly three-quarters.
The research team, which was funded by Procter and Gamble, asked 71% of pregnant women who took part in the study to rinse twice a day for 30 seconds with Crest Pro Health mouthwash, a non-alcoholic mouthwash. They compared the number of women who went into early labour within this group to 155 pregnant women who also suffered from gum disease, but who only rinsed with water.
Among the water-only group, 34 mothers – about one in five – had a pre-mature birth, before 35 weeks of pregnancy.
In the mouthwash group, just four mothers delivered their babies prematurely, which is about one in 20.
Dr Marjorie Jeffcoat, the lead author of the study and professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine found these results to be incredible. However, she did point out that the women knew which treatment they were getting – water or mouthwash – which in principle could have had an influence on the results.
The team could not pinpoint exactly why the mouthwash may have resulted in fewer premature babies, however they suspect that suffering from gum disease may increase the chances of early labour and by treating the gum disease, it decreased the number of premature births.
Gum disease is when the gums are infected by the bacteria of the teeth. This causes swelling of the gums and is a condition that can be exacerbated by pregnancy. The link between gum disease and early labour is that inflammation in gum disease involves the hormone-like substance prostaglandin E2, which is also involved in labour. Dr. Jeffcoat suggests that gum disease leads to inflammation and more prostaglandin E2 circulating through the body. This might trigger an early labour.
So by treating the gum disease with mouthwash, or by simply having good dental hygiene, it could mean that a pregnant woman is less likely to have a premature delivery.