It may sound like a non sequitur, but it's grounded in science: According to a new study, expecting mothers who use alcohol-free mouthwash may treat gum disease and thereby reduce their risk of pre-term labor by as much as 75 percent. What do bad breath, alcohol-free rinses, gingivitis and early childbirth have to do with one another? More than you might think.
When a woman becomes pregnant, her hormone levels shift, sometimes wildly. This change in the body's chemistry affects its ability to fight off plaque and gum disease. During her three trimesters, a woman's likelihood of having gum disease goes up a bit. This condition is sometimes called "pregnancy gingivitis." Fortunately, it is treatable.
In an article in the journal General Dentistry, researcher Crystal McIntosh puts it simply.
"Although bleeding and inflammation of the gums has been noted in all trimesters of pregnancy, it typically disappears three to six months after delivery, provided that proper oral hygiene measures are implemented," she wrote.
McIntosh's operative words are "proper oral hygiene measures." Soon-to-be mothers may consider using typical dental health tools, like common toothpastes and alcohol-based mouthwashes, to clean their teeth and gums. These may not do the trick, though, and new research suggests that getting rid of gum disease during pregnancy can entail some serious benefits.
In a brand new study, scientists from the University of Pennsylvania examined the effects of alcohol-free mouth-rinses on pregnant participant's oral health and birth timing.
There results were two-fold. First, the team found that women who used a specialty mouth rinse, one without any harsh alcohols, saw dramatic decreases in periodontitis, a form of severe gum disease.
Second, researchers determined that those who used the specialty rinse ended up being roughly three-quarters less likely to experience a pre-term birth - that is, one occurring before the 35th week of pregnancy.
The group theorized that this phenomenon has to do with prostaglandin E2, a lipid produced by the body. This substance is produced in gums afflicted with periodontitis. It is also involved in labor, as it helps soften the cervix and jump-start contractions.
This explanation is only a hypothesis for now, but the team's findings did not occur in a vacuum. Consider another new study, which was presented at the annual conference of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology.
Scientists from the University of Western Australia found that women with periodontal disease took an average of two months longer to get pregnant, compared to their peers with good oral health.