Can Gum Disease affect fertility? Hear from an expert periodontist
While we would love to say ‘no’, recent studies have found that infertility is linked to poor oral hygiene, more precisely, gum disease.
What is gum disease anyway?
Most people relate to gum disease as something that is not of serious concern and doesn’t require much attention, but one must know that gum disease (periodontal disease) is an infectious, chronic and inflammatory disease of the gums and the tissues around.
Normal bacteria, that is present in our mouth is the cause of gum disease. If oral hygiene is left unchecked, the bacterium creates inflammation around the tooth and starts pulling the gum away from the tooth, creating periodontal pockets that become infected. This inflammation not only affects the mouth and surrounding areas, but it causes a cascade of tissue-destructive events that can be associated with diabetes, heart diseases, respiratory and kidney disease, and fertility issues.
How Can Gum Disease Cause Infertility?
A research group studied the pattern of around 3737 pregnant women in Australia and analyzed and gathered information of about 3416 of them. They found out that women who had dental problems (gum disease) took longer to conceive – an average of seven months which is two months longer than the average of five months for those not suffering from gum disease.
The research further revealed that there is a bacteria associated with periodontal diseases called the Porphyromonas Gingivalis. This bacterium appeared more often in the saliva of the women who didn’t conceive compared to those that did.
However, the relationship between fertility and oral health goes both ways. Women undergoing infertility treatment could also be prone to developing related oral health issues or gum disease. Why does this happen?
During the infertility treatment, women are prescribed drugs that increase the levels of estrogen and progesterone in the body — although this seems to be good news for an aspiring mom, it is bad news for your gums. With more estrogen and progesterone , there is an increased blood flow in the gums, causing sensitivity. The gums then overcompensate for bacteria and plaque, and other conditions in the mouth. This results in inflammation, swelling, bleeding of the gums, bone loss around the teeth and tooth loss, potentially leading to periodontitis. Although the data behind the causation of infertility due to poor oral health is still inconclusive, it’s safe to say that good oral hygiene and regular teeth cleanings can help.
But conception or infertility isn’t the only risk. Women with chronic periodontitis are also prone to developing endometriosis.
Although research is in progress to further discover the exact reason why the bacteria present in periodontal disease can affect the fertility of a young woman, taking good care of your teeth is extremely important if you are looking to conceive.
Also, expectant mothers with poor oral hygiene can pass it along to their babies, along with other potential risks:
- Low birth weight
- Perinatal mortality
- Growth retardation of the fetus
Does gum disease only affect a woman’s fertility?
No, the negative effects of poor oral hygiene on fertility isn’t just limited to women. Men’s fertility may suffer, too in terms of sperm count. Yes, men with acute gum diseases are more likely to have a subnormal sperm count than those with healthy teeth. Also, poor oral health can lead to erectile dysfunction.
Whatever the cause, whatever the gender, all research directs to the same piece of advice: Take care of your teeth.
How can you prevent infertility that can be caused due to gum disease?
Watch for any or all signs occurring in your mouth. If you sense puffy or bleeding gums, schedule an appointment right away.
Follow the following tips:
- Eat a healthy and balanced diet of fresh fruit and vegetables, fish, whole grains and meat
- Avoid saturated fats in your diet
- Avoid sugary drinks and foods
- Brush with fluoridated toothpaste twice a day
- Drink plenty of fluoridated tap water
- Avoid smoking and alcohol
As dental health professionals, we want to impress on the fact that regular dental checkups are a must, especially if you’re planning to start a family.