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Fertility and Oral Health

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By: Sarah Lindgard

If I asked you to think of important factors that make up a healthy lifestyle, which sets the stage to support a healthy pregnancy, what comes to mind? Do you picture things such as eating a nourishing, wholesome diet and taking your daily prenatal vitamins? Making time for gentle exercise several times a week? Perhaps practicing methods of stress reduction and getting the proper amount of sleep?

How about flossing daily and brushing your teeth twice a day for 2 minutes? It’s not really something that is a popular topic (unless you work in a dental clinic). The benefits of good oral hygiene and its connection to the health of your body is wholly underrated.

Gum disease is a chronic, infectious and inflammatory disease of the gums and supporting tissues. Take a moment to think about your heart and how it beats roughly 86,000 times a day. If you have a low-grade infection going on in your mouth (which is essentially what gingivitis is), it is leaching pus and bacteria into your blood stream. Every time your blood goes by this infection, it circulates through every part of your body twice each minute. So what does that mean for you? Well, it means bacteria is passing everywhere through organs such as your heart, liver, kidneys, and of course your ovaries/testicles – did I get your attention?

Poor oral health is bad for fertility and could delay the time of conception by as much as two months, suggests a study published in July, 2011[1]. It investigated how gum disease can affect a woman’s chance of conceiving, as well as problems during pregnancy that include miscarriage and premature birth. This is also definitely something for couples undergoing IVF treatment to consider. The data indicated that the presence of periodontal disease is a modifiable risk factor and it exerts a negative influence on fertility that is of the same order of magnitude as obesity.

So women who have poor oral hygiene can take 2 months longer to conceive. How come? No, it’s not because they have bad breath!

Simply put, anytime the body has inflammation, it thinks there’s an emergency going on. If your body is having an ‘emergency’ with bacteria, pus, bleeding, etc, it’s kind of like having a house-fire. If your house was on fire, you’re not going to start painting the walls and changing the wallpaper. So, if your mouth is ‘on fire’ the last thing your body is doing, is getting its hormones ready for conception.

Roger Hart, who is a Professor of Reproductive Medicine at the University of Western Australia said, “On top of stopping smoking and drinking, maintaining a healthy weight and taking folic acid supplements, women should add a trip to the dentist before trying to have a baby.”

A pregnant women’s immune system will be decreased by about 20%, so an oral infection or a bacterial growth that was once lying dormant in the body, could surface and need attention. Preventative measures can help to avoid needing antibiotic care for treatment of oral infections during your pregnancy.

Everyone is encouraged to floss, and I know it can be somewhat of a boring task, but try to make routine flossing and brushing exciting! Experiment with several different kinds of floss (waxed, unwaxed, flavored, fuzzy, etc…) and get up close to a magnified mirror to really connect and see what you’re doing until it becomes second nature. If you’re not even really sure how to properly floss, just ask your dental hygienist to show you next time you go for a check up and cleaning. That way you’ll know how to properly use that broken yo-yo they always give you (;

[1] – July 2011, The SMILE study, Western Australia; European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology