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Gum Disease During Pregnancy May Up Risk for Gestational Diabetes
July 17, 2013

By Nancy Volkers
InteliHealth News Service

INTELIHEALTH - Women with gum disease may have an increased risk of gestational diabetes, a small study suggests.

The study was done in Thailand. Researchers compared 50 pregnant women who had gestational diabetes with 50 pregnant women who did not. All of the women were in their 10th through 28th weeks of pregnancy. They did not have other conditions that might affect their gums, such as heart or blood-vessel disease or bleeding problems.

None of the women smoked or drank alcohol during pregnancy. All were pregnant with one child, rather than twins or other multiples.

Compared with the women in the "control" group, the women with gestational diabetes:

  • Were more likely to be overweight before they became pregnant
  • Were more likely to have a family history of diabetes
  • Were nearly twice as likely to have periodontal (gum) disease – 50%, compared with 26% of women in the control group
  • Were more likely to have severe gum disease

Both groups were equally likely to floss their teeth, brush at least twice a day or have bleeding gums.

Researchers then compared women with gum disease to those without. Having gum disease increased risk almost as much as having a family history of diabetes did:

  • Women with periodontal disease were about 8 times as likely to have gestational diabetes.
  • Women with a family history of diabetes were about 10 times as likely to have gestational diabetes.

Being overweight before pregnancy did not increase the risk of gestational diabetes.

The authors note that women in rural Thailand, where this study was done, may have more gum disease than in other areas. A previous study in Thailand found that 92% of adults aged 30 to 39 had gum disease.

The authors also noted that the study could not show which condition came first. Did gestational diabetes come first, and somehow lead to periodontal disease? Or did periodontal disease come first, and make a woman more likely to have gestational diabetes? They pointed out, however, that gestational diabetes appears during a short time frame, so it is more likely that the periodontal disease came first.

Gestational diabetes affects up to 15% of pregnant women worldwide. It usually appears during the second three months of pregnancy (trimester). Several factors are known to increase risk of gestational diabetes. They include:

  • A family history of diabetes
  • Gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy
  • Obesity
  • Older age
  • Having polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)

Gestational diabetes can lead to babies with very high birth weights, which can complicate labor. Women diagnosed with gestational diabetes are at increased risk for type 2 diabetes later in life.

The study appears in the July issue of the Journal of Periodontology.

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