Oral Health Important to Prevent Gestational Diabetes

April 15, 2009

Researchers have found evidence suggesting that women with gum disease are at an increased risk for developing gestational diabetes, regardless of whether they smoke or drink.

New York University (NYU) researchers have found evidence suggesting that women with gum disease are at an increased risk for developing gestational diabetes, regardless of whether they smoke or drink.

Funded by the Dean’s Research Award from the NYU College of Dentistry, Dr. Ananda P. Dasanayake, professor of Epidemiology & Health Promotion, NYU College of Dentistry, studied 190 pregnant women in Sri Lanka, in collaboration with the Sri Lankan University of Peradeniya. The participating women did not smoke or drink, a product of both cultural taboos and poverty.

More than one-third of the women in the study experienced bleeding gums while brushing their teeth. The participants were given dental examinations and a glucose challenge test to screen for gestational diabetes, and those women “found to have the greatest amount of bleeding in their gums also had the highest levels of glucose in their blood.” The data from this study was presented by Dasanayake at the International Association for Dental Research on April 4 in Miami, FL.

These new findings support an earlier study conducted by Dasanayake and published in the April 2008 issue in the Journal of Dental Research. Dasanayake and colleagues studied 256 women during their first six months of pregnancy at New York’s Bellevue Hospital Center. Twenty-two of the participants developed gestational diabetes, and these women had “significantly higher levels of periodontal bacteria and inflammation than the other women in the study.”

“In addition to its potential role in preterm delivery, evidence that gum disease may also contribute to gestational diabetes suggests that women should see a dentist if they plan to get pregnant, and after becoming pregnant,” Dr. Dasanayake said. “Treating gum disease during pregnancy has been shown to be safe and effective in improving women's oral health and minimizing potential risks.”