More severe periodontal disease poses additional threat to pregnant diabetics

November 21, 2001

CHICAGO - Pregnant diabetics have more gingival inflammation and deeper pockets between their teeth and gums, which are symptoms of periodontal disease, than non-diabetic pregnant women, according to a new study in the Journal of Periodontology. These findings are significant because periodontal disease is a bacterial infection that may make diabetes more difficult to control. Previous studies have shown that periodontal disease may increase women's risk of delivering a preterm, low birth weight baby. The study compared 13 type 1 diabetic and 20 non-diabetic women in their 20-39th week of pregnancy. "Many women experience periodontal problems, such as bleeding and swollen gums, during pregnancy," explained Janet Guthmiller, D.D.S., Ph.D., the lead researcher of the study conducted at the University of Iowa, Colleges of Dentistry and Medicine. "But the more advanced periodontal disease we observed in pregnant diabetics, who are already considered high risk for pregnancy problems, may affect blood sugar control during this critical time." Exacerbating the problem, periodontal disease may independently be a risk factor for preterm, low birth weight babies. Periodontal disease may trigger increased levels of biological fluids that induce labor, and this response may be amplified in diabetics. "This self-perpetuating destruction could potentially further complicate diabetic control and pregnancy outcome in diabetic subjects," according to the study.

"This study vividly illustrates just how connected our bodies' processes can be. Periodontal disease is a bacterial infection, and the infection may impact other parts of the body," said Kenneth Bueltmann, D.D.S., president of the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP). "Treating periodontal disease and reducing the bacteria load may benefit diabetic control as well as pregnancy outcomes." "Our hope is that periodontal evaluations will be routinely included in the prenatal care of pregnant diabetic women, just as ophthalmologic exams are," said Guthmiller. The AAP recommends that all women considering pregnancy have a periodontal exam.
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A referral to a periodontist or a free brochure titled Diabetes & Gum Disease is available by calling 1-800-FLOSS-EM or by visiting the AAP's Web site at www.perio.org.

The American Academy of Periodontology is a 7,500-member association of dental professionals specializing in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases affecting the gums and supporting structures of the teeth and in the placement and maintenance of dental implants. Periodontics is one of nine dental specialties recognized by the American Dental Association.

American Academy of Periodontology

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