Gum disease bacteria may mess with conception

According to new Finnish research, a common periodontal pathogen may delay conception in young women. This finding is novel; previous studies have shown that periodontal diseases may be a risk for general health, but no data has ever been available on the influence of periodontal bacteria on conception or becoming pregnant.

In the study—which was published earlier this week in the Journal of Oral Microbiology—a team from the University of Helsinki performed clinical oral and gynaecological examinations on 256 healthy non-pregnant women who had discontinued contraception in order to become pregnant.

Detection of major periodontal pathogens in saliva and analysis of serum and saliva antibodies against major periodontal pathogens as well as a vaginal swab for the diagnosis of bacterial vaginosis at baseline were carried out.

Subjects were followed up to establish whether they did or did not become pregnant during the observation period of 12 months.

Porphyromonas gingivalis, a bacterium associated with periodontal diseases, was significantly more frequently detected in the saliva among women who did not become pregnant during the one-year follow-up period than among those who did. The levels of salivary and serum antibodies against this pathogen were also significantly higher in women who did not become pregnant.

“Our study does not answer the question on possible reasons for infertility but it shows that periodontal bacteria may have a systemic effect even in lower amounts, and even before clear clinical signs of gum disease can be seen,” said periodontist and researcher Susanna Paju. “More studies are needed to explain the mechanisms behind this association.”

Infertility is a major concern and increasing healthcare resources are needed for infertility treatments. Paju said that more attention should be paid to the potential effects of common periodontal diseases on infertility. Moreover, the results of the study should “encourage young women of fertile age to take care of their oral health and attend periodontal evaluations regularly”.

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