Pregnant Women: Use Mouthwash to Prevent Preterm Delivery
In the United States, nearly 13 percent of babies are born prematurely, according to the March of Dimes. Premature babies face a host of medical problems, including breathing problems, bleeding inside their brains and infections.
Doctors and researchers theorize that one of the main causes of preterm birth is infection in the mother’s body. A common site of infection in pregnant women is gingivitis, or gum disease, and proper treatment of gingivitis may offer protection against preterm birth. A study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology offers insight into a simple and effective treatment to reduce preterm labor related to dental disease.
Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine evaluated 71 pregnant women who were previously diagnosed with gingivitis. They separated these women into two groups and asked one group to rinse with an alcohol-free mouthwash twice daily for thirty seconds at a time. The other group of pregnant women rinsed their mouths with plain water. The researchers followed these women through their pregnancies and noted which women delivered preterm, or before 35 weeks of pregnancy.
Women who rinsed their mouths with mouthwash had a preterm delivery rate of one in 20 births. The women who did not use mouthwash but instead rinsed their mouths with plain water delivered their babies prematurely at a rate of one in five births. Women who used mouthwash reduced their risk of preterm birth by nearly 75%.
Dr. Marjorie Jeffcoat, professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine and lead author of this research notes that the difference in preterm birth rates is “incredible” and speculates that the mouthwash may work to reduce oral inflammation. Inflamed gums may generate increased levels of the hormone prostaglandin E2, which may trigger preterm contractions, and regular use of mouthwash may reverse this process.
In addition to fewer preterm deliveries, women in the mouthwash group experienced less gum inflammation and bleeding than women who swished with plain water.
Pregnant women should seek prenatal care early in their pregnancy to reduce their risk of preterm birth. In addition to prenatal care and good nutrition, proper dental care appears to influence the overall health and well-being of the pregnancy.
Women who have gingivitis or other oral diseases should work closely with their dentists and pregnancy care providers. Effective treatment of gingivitis should include regular use of mouthwash.
All pregnant women and women who may become pregnant should brush and floss regularly to prevent gum disease. Pregnant women should only use alcohol-free mouthwash.
"Mouthwashing moms less likely to have a preemie"; Reuters; 7/28/2011
"Use of Alcohol-Free Antimicrobial Mouthrinse is Associated with Decreased Incidence of Preterm Birth in a High Risk Population"; Marjorie Jeffcoat, et al.; American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology; July 18, 2011
March of Dimes; Premature Birth