A study has revealed that there is a lack of awareness of the link between poor oral health and complications in pregnancy, as well as other health conditions.
Academic studies increasingly demonstrate the links between poor oral health and systemic disease, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and links with complications in pregnancy. Now new research from Ipsos, conducted in partnership with GSK Consumer Healthcare, indicates that these links are not yet widely recognised.
The study involved 4500 participants across 9 countries and revealed the need to improve public awareness of the benefits of good oral health to our overall health.
Low awareness of the importance of good oral health during pregnancy
During pregnancy, higher hormone levels can change the way the body reacts to plaque build-up, causing swollen gums, an early sign of gum disease. Pregnant women with severe gum disease (periodontitis) are more at risk of giving birth prematurely, suffering pre-eclampsia, or having a baby with low birth weight – meaning good oral health habits and seeking advice from healthcare professionals are critical.
Less than half (47%) of survey respondents were aware that good oral healthcare can support a healthier pregnancy, with lower risk of complications. There was even lower awareness of the risks of poor oral health for pregnancy among older respondents who could be grandparents and/or advisors. While approximately 52% of those under 50 knew of the risks, the percentage fell to 40% for people aged over 50.
The study highlighted the significant role of regular dental visits in improving understanding of the relevance of oral health to overall health. Respondents who visited a dentist more frequently during the pandemic compared to before were more aware of the impact of oral health on all conditions surveyed.
Professor Nicola X West, Professor in Restorative Dentistry (Periodontology) at Bristol Dental School, said: “The association between oral health and overall health is well documented by the scientific community. However, public awareness of the wider benefits of careful tooth-brushing, taking care of your oral cavity and regular dentist visits remains worryingly low.”