We know that gum disease isn’t just a disease of the mouth: it has systemic effects that can lead to many risks. We also know that gum disease has complex interactions with female hormones. It can increase a woman’s risk for pregnancy complications, and birth control use can increase gum disease risk.

But now researchers have identified a new connection, showing that gum disease may make it harder for women to get pregnant.

Belly of pregnant woman on brown background

Bad Bacteria Identified

For this study, researchers looked at 256 healthy, non-pregnant women in Finland who had been on birth control but had stopped in order to conceive a child. The women (age 19-42 years) were given clinical exams to determine their oral and overall health. Researchers used oral samples to identify which gum disease bacteria they had.

Women were then followed for 12 months to see which of them became pregnant. Most of them (205, 80%) did. But it was found that one strain of oral bacteria was much more common in women who didn’t become pregnant than in those that did. The bacteria Porphyromonas gingivalis was found in about 8% of women who didn’t become pregnant, compared to only 2% of those who did.

Researchers postulated that this meant the P. gingivalis could interfere with conception. In particular, the impact of the bacteria was related to a woman’s response to it. If a woman tested positive for the bacteria and had salivary antibodies against it, she was 3.75 times more likely to not get pregnant, and if she had blood antibodies and signs of infection, they were 1.62 times more likely to not get pregnant.

Oral Health Is Whole Body Health

This study is another reminder that oral health is closely related to whole body health. It speaks to the impacts that gum disease can have on your ability to live a full, healthy life.

What the study doesn’t tell us is whether gum disease treatment can improve your odds of conception. However, other studies have shown that gum disease treatment can reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, and pregnancy complications. This means that it’s a good idea for women of all ages to get their oral health checked out and have problems addressed. It is doubly important for women who are considering getting pregnant or who are pregnant.

You may have heard that you shouldn’t see the dentist while pregnant. This is an old recommendation, and although we may postpone some work until after you have your baby, it is good to get regular checkups and cleanings during pregnancy.

If you are considering getting pregnant, it’s also important to talk to your partner about his oral health. Oral health can impact his sexual health, too, so it’s important for him to get regular dental checkups to maintain good oral health.

If you are looking for a Wilmington, NC dentist who can help protect your oral and overall health, please call (910) 392-6060 today for an appointment with Dr. Michael Kuzma at Kuzma Advanced Dentistry.