Posted by Neharika Sabharwal on February 13, 2011

According to researchers, women in danger of a premature birth can cut their risk of an early delivery by two-thirds just by rinsing their teeth with an alcohol-free antibacterial mouthwash.

Preterm birth is the leading cause of newborn death. Infants who survive an early birth often face the risk of complications at birth, lifelong health challenges such as breathing problems, cerebral palsy, and intellectual disabilities.

Lead author of the study, Dr. Marjorie Jeffcoat, a professor of periodontics at the University of Pennsylvania stated, "Preterm birth is the major cause of perinatal mortality and morbidity worldwide and still difficult to predict and prevent. So, when we found that something as simple as mouthwash could change the outcomes, we were very excited.”

Study details
In a bid to determine whether a mouth-rinse decreases the incidence of preterm birth, the researchers conducted a study.

They enrolled 200 women at the early stages of pregnancy who were suffering from a periodontal disease that can cause the gums and the bone around the teeth to decay.

The study subjects were receiving no dental care and did not have obstetric infections.

As a part of the study, 49 women were asked to use an antimicrobial, alcohol-free mouth-rinse containing cetyl pyridinium chloride (CPC) two times daily. The remaining volunteers followed their regular regimen.

Findings of the study
The study found that pregnant women who used a mouthwash for their periodontal disease cut their risk of giving birth to low birth-weight or pre-term babies.

It was noted that only 6.1 percent of the women who used a mouthwash had a premature delivery as opposed to 21.9 percent of those who did not use the rinse.

Even after factoring age, smoking, and alcohol consumption, women adopting oral hygiene exhibited a two-third reduction in premature deliveries.

Jeffcoat stated, "These results were so dramatic. There is a public health responsibility, in fact, to know what we found, to repeat it, to find out who should get it.”

A plausible explanation
Experts theorize that surging hormones during pregnancy may cause bacterial infection in the gums.

Acute inflammation of the gums may trigger the body to go into labor and the baby can be born to early or too small.

Dr. Anthony M. Iacopino of the Canadian Dental Association stated, "We've always had patients who were a little bit leery about going to dentist when they are pregnant, although it is completely safe to have care provided during pregnancy.”

He added, "Using a mouth rinse is very cost effective and it is easy to do, anyone can do it. And if it is going to be effective, it is going to be a huge benefit for public health interventions.”

The findings of the study were presented at the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine's (SMFM) annual meeting.

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