Oral Bacteria May Interfere with Conception

Dentistry Today


Porphyromonas gingivalis, a bacterium associated with periodontal diseases, also may delay conception in young women, according to the University of Helsinki. The study comprised 256 healthy nonpregnant women from Southern Finland between the ages of 19 and 42 years who had discontinued contraception to become pregnant.

At baseline, the subjects received clinical oral and gynecological examinations. The researchers looked for major periodontal pathogens in saliva and analyzed serum and saliva antibodies against major periodontal pathogens. Plus, they carried out vaginal swabs for the diagnosis of bacterial vaginosis. Follow-ups established whether the subjects became pregnant during the following 12 months.

P gingivalis was significantly more frequently detected in the saliva of the women who did not become pregnant than among those who did. The levels of salivary and serum antibodies against the pathogen also were significantly higher in women who did not become pregnant. These findings were independent of other risk factors contributing to conception, such as age, tobacco use, socioeconomics, bacterial vaginosis, previous deliveries, or clinical periodontal disease.

The researchers determined that women with P gingivalis in their saliva and higher saliva or serum antibody concentrations against the bacterium had a threefold hazard for not becoming pregnant compared to their counterparts. The hazard increased to nearly fourfold if more than one of these qualities and clinical signs of periodontitis were present.

“Our study does not answer the question on possible reasons for infertility, but it shows that periodontal bacteria may have a systemic effect even in lower amounts, and even before clear clinical signs of gum disease can be seen,” said periodontist and researcher Susanna Paju, DDS, PhD. “More studies are needed to explain the mechanisms behind this association.”

The researchers note that infertility is a major concern, with increasing healthcare resources dedicated to treating it. Meanwhile, severe chronic periodontitis is the sixth most common medical condition in the world, according to the Global Burden of Disease Study. The researchers, then, encourage young women to take care of their oral health and maintain good oral hygiene when they are planning pregnancy.  

The study, “Porphyromonas Gingivalis May Interfere with Conception in Women,” was published by the Journal of Oral Microbiology.

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