July 6, 2011

Oral Health Can Significantly Affect Fertility In Women

Poor oral health is just as bad for fertility as obesity, and could delay the time of conception by as much as two months, Professor Roger Hart told the annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology on Tuesday.

"Until now, there have been no published studies that investigate whether gum disease can affect a woman's chance of conceiving, so this is the first report to suggest that gum disease might be one of several factors that could be modified to improve the changes of a pregnancy," says Hart, who is a Professor of Reproductive Medicine at the University of Western Australia and Medical Director of Fertility Specialists of Western Australia.

Gum disease is a chronic, infectious and inflammatory disease of the gums and supporting tissues. The inflammation from the infection can pass into the blood stream, and has been known to be associated with heart disease, type 2 diabetes, respiratory and kidney disease, as well as problems in pregnancy that include miscarriage and premature birth, the study says.

Severe periodontal disease is believed to infect about 10 percent of the population.

The study follows over 3,500 pregnant women who took part in a Western Australian study called the SMILE study. Information on pregnancy planning and pregnancy outcomes was analyzed for 3,416 of the women.

Results from the analysis found that women with gum disease took over seven months to conceive, which is about two months longer than the average of five months for those without gum disease.

Additionally, non-Caucasian women with gum disease were more likely to take even longer to become pregnant (over one year) than those without gum disease. Although Caucasian women did tend to take longer to conceive, the difference was not statistically significant.

The appearance of having a higher level of inflammatory response to gum disease could be the reason why pregnancies in non-Caucasian women are more affected by it, Professor Hart says.

"Our data suggest that the presence of periodontal disease is a modifiable risk factor, which can increase a woman's time to conception, particularly for non-Caucasians," he says.

"It exerts a negative influence on fertility that is of the same order of magnitude as obesity. This study also confirms other, known negative influences upon time to conception for a woman; these include being over 35 years of age, being overweight or obese, and being a smoker. There was no correlation between the time it took to become pregnant and the socio-economic status of the woman."

On top of stopping smoking and drinking, maintaining a healthy weight and taking folic acid supplements, Professor Hart also suggests women add a trip to the dentist before trying to have a baby.

"All women about to plan for a family should be encouraged to see their general practitioner to ensure that they are as healthy as possible before trying to conceive and so that they can be given appropriate lifestyle advice with respect to weight loss, diet and assistance with stopping smoking and drinking, plus the commencement of folic acid supplements. Additionally, it now appears that all women should also be encouraged to see their dentist to have any gum disease treated before trying to conceive. It is easily treated, usually involving no more than four dental visits."

Dr. Allan Pacey, a U.K. fertility expert says, "It's common sense advice really to make sure you are in a healthy condition if you want to try for a baby."


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