July 30, 2011

Mouthwash Helps Mothers Fight Premature Births

According to a new study, expectant mothers who have gum disease are less likely to deliver their babies prematurely if they use mouthwash during their pregnancy.

Pregnant women with gum disease are known to have more premature babies than women with healthy gums.

It is unclear whether that link is casual, and whether better oral hygiene would make a difference.

The new study found that regularly using an alcohol-free mouth rinse appeared to cut women's risk of early labor by three-quarters.

"I think this is extremely encouraging," Dr. Steven Offenbacher, a professor at the University of North Carolina's School of Dentistry, told Reuters.

"We haven't known the best way to manage these patients."

The researchers asked 71 pregnant women with gum disease to rinse twice a day for 30 seconds with Crest Pro Health mouthwash.  The mouthwash does not contain alcohol.

The team compared the number of pre-term births with a group of 155 pregnant women who had gum disease, but rinsed with just water.

Thirty-four mothers among the water-only group delivered their babies prematurely.

Only four mothers in the mouthwash group delivered their babies prematurely.

Dr. Marjorie Jeffcoat, the lead author of the study and a professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine, said women knew which treatment they were getting, which in principle might have influenced the results.

The researchers did not identify why the mouthwash was linked to fewer premature births, but said gum disease could be the culprit.

Jeffcoat said inflammation in gum disease involves the hormone-like substance prostaglandin E2.

She said gum disease leads to inflammation and more prostaglandin E2 circulating through the body, which might then spark an early labor.  Jeffcoat believes that by treating the gum disease, women can cut their prostaglandin E2 levels and reduce their risk of going into labor early.

The study found that mouthwash did not appear to help the gum disease.

Mothers who did not use the mouthwash had more inflammation and sites along the gums where the tissue would bleed.

The study was published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.


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