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Everyone can cite the basic benefits of dental care: whiter teeth, fresh breath and a clean mouth. But the recent news that a California woman's untreated gum disease may have contributed to a stillborn birth could change perceptions of the significance of thorough oral hygiene.
According to a study published Thursday in Obstetrics and Gynecology, oral bacteria called Fusobacterium nucleatum was the likely culprit in infecting the 35-year-old woman's fetus through the bloodstream, MSNBC.com reports.
"Once the bacteria are in the blood, they can go almost anywhere," the study's lead author Dr Yiping Han told the news source.
He added, "The placenta is an immune-suppressed organ, compared to other organs like the liver and the spleen. And that makes it easy for the bacteria to colonize the placenta."
The doctors determined that the same strain of oral bacteria found in the woman's mouth and in the deceased baby's stomach and lungs.
Background information for the study showed that about 75 percent of pregnant women experience bleeding from their gums, a sign of gum disease, due to hormonal changes.
Consultation with a dentist may be necessary to ascertain the difference between normal hormonal function and the presence of dangerous oral bacteria, according to BabyCenter.com.
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