Pregnant Women How does gum disease affect the health of an unborn baby? Gum disease is an infection in the mouth that affects the hormone levels that can cause early labor. Research shows that pregnant women with gum disease have a greater risk of delivering a baby too early.1 Babies born early have an increased risk of death and serious medical problems such as cerebral palsy, lung and digestive disease, mental retardation, and vision and hearing loss. What are the symptoms of gum disease? Early symptoms of gum disease are redness or bleeding of the gums from brushing teeth, using dental floss, or biting into hard food such as apples. Other symptoms include swelling of the gums, bad breath, and gums that draw away from the teeth. As gum disease worsens, deep pockets may appear between the teeth. How can gum disease be prevented? Successful prevention or management of gum disease begins with good oral health habits. These include brushing twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. Flossing every day is also necessary. You should visit your dentist at least every six months for oral exams and cleanings and be sure to use any at-home products your dentist recommends such as a mouthrinse or prescription fluoride toothpaste. How is gum disease treated? The level of treatment will depend on the seriousness of the gum disease. Early gum disease can be successfully treated with a deep cleaning and proper maintenance care. Pregnant women should see a dentist at least one time during pregnancy to obtain treatment if necessary. 1 Offenbacher, Steven, “Periodontal Infection as a Possible Risk Factor for Preterm Low Birth Weight,” Journal of Periodontology, 1996 October; 67 (10 Suppl): pp. 1103-1113.