Periodontitis and its possible contribution to preterm birth

Evidence is accumulating that gum disease can lead to chronic systemic inflammation throughout the entire body.  In fact, bacteria from the mouth may be entering the vasculature through the gums and can wind up in various places around the body, like in the plaques that cause heart attacks.  Another location that these mouth bacteria can end up is in the placenta of expecting mothers.  This is important because of the increasing association between the placental microbiome and preterm birth.  Researchers from Spain investigated this connection by determining the placental microbiomes of pregnant women with and without periodontitis.  The results of their study were published last week in the journal Oral Diseases.

The researchers measured the placental microbiomes of 57 pregnant women, as well as determined their periodontitis statuses.  They discovered that the abundance of placental bacteria was significantly higher in women with periodontitis.  In addition, they identified Fusobacterium nucleatum was significantly higher in the placentas of women with periodontitis.  Also, 90% of women who had either preterm birth or very low birth weight infants carried F. nucleatum, compared to 62% of full term pregnancies.

Interestingly, other studies have shown F. nucleatum in the mouths of folks with deep gum pockets, which strengthens this connection between the conditions.  It is strange to consider the relationship between the mouth and placenta, which have seemingly little in common.  However, the microbiome of both are connected by the vasculature, and they apparently share many of the same bugs.  Until further research can establish better connections between these pregnancy outcomes and the microbiome we recommend all expecting mothers to floss and brush their teeth every day.

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