Healthy gums appear to be an important indicator of a healthy pregnancy, according to an April 2008 report published in the Journal of Dental Research.
Researchers at New York University College of Dentistry found that pregnant women with periodontal (gum) disease have a higher risk for developing gestational diabetes than pregnant women with healthy gums. Gestational diabetes is a form of diabetes that appears during pregnancy, but often goes away after a woman gives birth. It can be a serious risk factor for developing diabetes in the future, however.
For pregnant women with periodontal disease, the inflammation present in the gums may produce compounds that interfere with the action of insulin, the hormone that regulates use of glucose in the body. One particular inflammatory compound, C-reactive protein, has been associated with pregnancy problems such as premature delivery and preclampsia.
“Treating gum disease during pregnancy has been shown to be safe and effective in improving women’s oral health and minimizing potential risks,” according to the lead author Dr. Ananda P. Dasanayake as quoted in Science Daily.
The study largely focused on Hispanic women, because Hispanics and other minority populations have a higher incidence of type 2 diabetes than Caucasian women. “We can expect to see more research on the link between (periodontal disease and gestational diabetes) involving other high risk groups, such as Asian and Native American women,” she added.
Science News, March 2008. “Periodontal Disease Can Lead to Gestational Diabetes, Study Shows.” http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080324122301.htm
Dasanayke, A. P., et al., 2008. “Periodontal Pathogens and Gestational Diabetes Mellitus,” J Dent Res 87 (4): 328-333. http://jdr.iadrjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/87/4/328
Science News article, 2006, “Periodontitis May Increase C-reactive Protein Levels in Pregnancy,” http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/05/060504075711.htm
MedlinePlus website: “Pregnancy and Diabetes,” National Institutes of Health.