Health :: Columbia research explores impact of gum disease therapy on pregnancy

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that treatment for periodontal disease in pregnant women does not result in a lower rate of adverse pregnancy outcomes such as preterm birth and low birth weight. At the same time, the study showed that periodontal treatment during pregnancy is safe. The researchers recommend additional studies to assess the potential benefits of the treatment.

Periodontal disease occurs when infection of the gums goes untreated and inflammation spreads to the tissues that support the teeth, ultimately leading to tooth loss.

This multi-center trial studied two groups of pregnant women with gum disease, one that received therapy during pregnancy, and a control group that was not treated until after delivery. Columbia University researchers from the College of Dental Medicine and the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Harlem Hospital together with colleagues at three other institutions hypothesized that periodontal treatment would result in a reduced number of preterm births in women who were treated for gum disease. However, the results did not demonstrate a statistically significant improvement in outcomes in the treated group.

“Although our findings do not corroborate our original hypothesis, they clearly show that treating periodontal disease does not have a negative impact on pregnancy outcomes. There are a number of additional variables that we must continue to examine in order to definitively answer the question of whether treating periodontal disease can improve pregnancy outcomes,” said Panos N. Papapanou, DDS, Ph.D., Professor and Director of the Division of periodontics in the College of Dental Medicine at Columbia University Medical Center, and an investigator on the trial.

According to Dr. Papapanou, additional studies will need to be carried out in order to make more specific treatment recommendations for pregnant women with periodontitis. These studies will need to consider the timing of the intervention and the intensity of the intervention, as well as a broader scope of adverse outcomes, including late miscarriage, early still birth, and spontaneous preterm birth.

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