Healthy Teeth Cut Preterm Labor Risk

01.22.09 Study links mouth bacteria to most deliveries before 37 weeks


A new study reveals that brushing away bacteria in your mouth can lower your risk for preterm labor, "> reports. Experts hope the findings, published in the ">Journal of Clinical Microbiology, will spark a renewed emphasis on the importance of oral hygiene, especially during pregnancy.

Researchers at Case Western Reserve and Yale universities suggest that previously undiscovered bacteria could be responsible for up to 80 percent of preterm labors. The newly discovered bacteria live in the mouth, but a cut or cavity could allow the bacteria to travel through a woman's body, including to her uterus. This could trigger an immune response, which then could send a woman into premature labor.

As Fit Pregnancy has reported in the past, other studies have shown that a pregnant woman who has gum disease may be seven times more likely to have a premature, low-birth weight baby. Prostaglandin—a chemical found in mouth bacteria—is also a likely labor inducer.

Women should have any dental work done before trying to conceive because X-rays are a no-no during pregnancy. Once you're expecting, brush your teeth twice daily and floss once a day. Experts also say that intensive teeth cleanings during the second and third trimester are safe and effective for women with gum disease.

Plus your precious newborn will have teeth soon enough, too. Remember, it's never too early to start taking care of your baby's pearly whites.

Maria Vega is Fit Pregnancy magazine's copy editor.