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Dental Procedure Reduces Preterm Births

A non-surgical dental procedure -- known as scaling and root planing -- may reduce the risk of preterm birth in pregnant women with periodontal disease, //according to a new study.

Researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham school of dentistry studied more than 350 pregnant women who had periodontitis -- a gum infection that destroys the fibers and supporting bone that hold teeth in the mouth. Study participants were between 21 and 25 weeks into their pregnancies and had at least three sites with periodontal attachment loss of three millimeters or greater. Participants received one of three treatments: dental prophylaxis with a placebo; scaling and root planing with a placebo; or scaling and root planing plus metronidazole -- an antibiotic used to treat infections.

Results of the study show women who received the scaling and root planing procedure had an 84-percent reduction in preterm births. Scaling and root planing is a common treatment that involves cleaning the tooth and root surfaces to remove plaque, tarter, and bacterial toxins. Marjorie Jeffcoat, D.M.D., author of the study, told that the procedure is only performed on patients with periodontitis. She says it works because it reduces the inflammation and infection that is thought to induce early labor.

Results also show adjunctive metronidazole therapy did not improve pregnancy outcome. In fact, women who were given the antibiotic after scaling and root planing had more pre-term births than patients receiving scaling and root planing along with a placebo. Dr. Jeffcoat says more research needs to be conducted to determine why this increase occurred.

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