The East London study of periodontal disease and preterm low birthweight
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Establishment of risk factors, and mechanisms involved in preterm (premature) birth is important for society. Despite efforts to find the cause(s), a significant proportion of preterm birth is of unknown aetiology. Maternal infection has been implicated and oral infection in the form of periodontal (gum) disease has also been suggested as a risk factor for preterm birth (OPenbacher et at, 1996). The aim of this study was to examine the possible relationship between maternal periodontal disease and the delivery of preterm infants with associated low birthweight in East London. This was an unmatched case-control study with 187 cases (mothers whose infant weighed < 2500g, gestational age < 37 weeks (preterm low birthwieght (PLBW)), and 532 controls (mothers whose infant weighed z 2500g, gestational age z 37 weeks). Risk factor information for prematurity and low birthweight were collected from Maternity notes and a structured questionnaire. Maternal periodontal disease levels were measured by: Community Periodontal Index, periodontal probing pocket depths and a bleeding index. Analysis was by logistic regression. The study population was derived from a multiethnic inner city population the predominant groups being Bangladeshi (51.9%) and white Caucasian (25.9%). No differences were found between the periodontal status of the case and control mothers for any of the periodontal indices. The risk for PLBW decreased significantly (p=0.02) with increasing mean periodontal probing pocket depth (crude OR 0.83[95% CI 0.68, 1.00]). After controlling for pre-pregnancy hypertension, smoking, alcohol consumption, maternal age, ethnic group and mother's education this risk decreased further (OR 0.78[95% CI 0.63, 0.96]). No evidence was found for increased risk of PLBW with maternal periodontal disease as measured in this study population. Promotion of oral health by healthcare workers is important, but these results did not support a specific drive to improve the periodontal health of pregnant women as a means of decreasing adverse pregnancy outcomes.
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