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News / January 29, 2010

Stillborn baby’s death linked to mother’s gum disease

by Guy Hiscott

Dental health charities throughout Europe are urging pregnant women to take care of their teeth following the first documented link between a foetal death and the mother’s pregnancy-related gum disease.

Microbiologist Yiping Han, the lead author of a US case study conducted at the Department of Periodontics at Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine in Ohio, identified oral bacteria, which originated from the 35-year-old woman’s gingivitis, as the cause of the stillbirth. 

The findings, published in the February issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology, once again raise questions about the effects of oral bacteria, and provide further evidence to reinforce a systemic link between oral health and overall bodily health. 

Han’s research revealed that the pregnant woman’s gingivitis had allowed an oral bacteria, Fusobacterium nucleatum, to be delivered into the bloodstream, infecting the foetus and causing the stillbirth at 39 weeks.  

DNA testing revealed a match between the bacteria found in the mother’s mouth and the bacterial infection in the stillborn baby’s lungs and stomach. 

Scientists believe that any disruption to the amniotic fluid could pose a risk to both mother and baby – making the infection from gum disease a real risk.

Han reiterated the importance of good oral healthcare for mothers as it was revealed that, following preventive periodontal treatment, the mother in question later delivered a healthy baby boy following her second pregnancy.

The article’s Abstract can be accessed at American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website.