Almost 50% of adults age 30 and over in the United States have some form of periodontitis. Gum disease can lead to a variety of health conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, and premature birth. Less well known is that it can negatively impact a couple’s ability to conceive. In one study, women with this disease took an average of two months longer to conceive than others.
What is gum disease and its stages?
Gum disease is a leading cause of tooth loss, and it has two primary stages. When it’s diagnosed and treated during the initial stage, the condition is easily reversible. Tooth loss is also preventable during this stage.
Let’s take a look at the stages of gum disease to better understand its relationship with trying to conceive.
Stage 1: Gingivitis
The first stage of gum disease is gingivitis. It affects the soft tissue of the gums, and a lot of the time, people don’t even experience discomfort. Some of the symptoms at this stage are:
- Bleeding or swollen gums.
- Receding gums.
- Bad breath or metallic taste in the mouth.
- Increasing spaces between the teeth.
Although symptoms are often mild at this stage, treatment is imperative to ensure the disease doesn’t progress to the next stage.
Stage 2: Periodontitis
When gum disease progresses, it becomes periodontitis. At this point, the bone structures that support the teeth can become compromised. Some of the signs at this stage are:
- Bad breath.
- Red, swollen, or tender gums.
- Gums that bleed when brushing or flossing.
- Pain when chewing.
- Changes in the position of your teeth or loose teeth.
- Tooth loss.
- Foul taste in one’s mouth.
- Inflammatory reaction throughout other parts of the body.
Without regular dental visits, patients may not notice symptoms until moderate to severe periodontitis exists.
How does gum disease influence trying to conceive?
During early gum disease, your gums recede, and small pockets form between the teeth and the gums. These pockets harbor bacteria, and your immune system must fight the infection. Many patients experience bleeding and pain when they floss and brush as the gingivitis gets worse.
As the disease progresses, teeth lose bone support and become loose. Plus, the infection can lead to an inflammatory response in other parts of the body. The pathogens in periodontal disease can circulate in the body, which negatively affects other organs. Plus, the disease increases inflammation, which leads to systemic inflammation in the body.
Periodontal disease affects the reproductive system the same way that it affects the entire body. Inflammation, for example, interferes with conception. It can prevent ovulation and also prevent the implantation of the embryo.
The bacteria harbored through gum disease produce metabolic waste products, too. When these products circulate through the body, they can easily cross the placenta and affect a growing fetus or cause infertility. Gum disease can lead to poor semen and sperm health in men for the same reasons. Plus, it can cause infertility and preterm birth.
How to Prevent Gum Disease
While gum disease is a serious health condition that can lead to many other issues, it is easily preventable! It’s also easy to treat during the early stages. If you’re trying to conceive or thinking about doing so in the future, here are some things you and your partner can do to prevent gum disease:
- Brush your teeth, especially after meals.
- Rinse with water after eating.
- Remember to brush your tongue as bacteria likes to hide there.
- Floss at least twice a day to remove food and plaque that a toothbrush can’t reach.
- Use mouthwash to reduce plaque and get rid of any remaining food particles.
- If you’re at an increased risk (i.e., have endometriosis), talk to your dentist about what else you can do.
The most important thing is to stay proactive. Make your oral health as much a part of your daily routine as eating food or going to work. Buy yourself fun products like travel toothbrushes and oral health kits so that you can keep your mouth clean when you’re away from home too!
How to Treat Gum Disease
Gum disease treatment is dependent on the stage of the disease. During the early stages, at-home treatment is acceptable and encouraged. With consistent oral health care and professional dental cleanings, the early stages of this disease are easily reversible.
If the disease has progressed but is still in the early stages, your dentist can perform scaling and root planing. That is a nonsurgical, deep-cleaning procedure that removes harmful bacteria and provides a clean surface for the gums to then reattach to the teeth.
During the later stages of gum disease, surgical treatment is often required. Some of the surgical treatments a patient might need in the later stages of this disease are:
- Soft tissue grafts.
- Bone grafts.
- Guided tissue generation.
- Bone surgery.
- Flap surgery.
Preventing or treating gum disease can encourage a healthy pregnancy.
We are here to support you throughout every step of your oral health journey.
By establishing a consistent at-home dental routine and creating an in-office dental care plan, you and your dentist can easily prevent gum disease. If you’re already in the early stages of gum disease, your dentist will set up a plan to help you reverse your gingivitis.
If you’re ready to be more proactive about oral health for you and your family, contact us to get started on a family plan for healthy smiles now and in the future!