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Dental Health Matters for Fertility

When you're trying to boost your fertility or get pregnant faster, it's common to get advice to eat fruits and vegetables, exercise in moderation, limit alcohol and stop smoking. It's rare, however, for an OB/GYN or fertility doctor to ask how often you brush and floss.

An Australian study published in February online in the journal Human Reproduction reminds us keeping our teeth and gums healthy is important for fertility. Researchers at King Edward Memorial Hospital in Perth found that periodontal (gum) disease can have a negative effect on getting pregnant by delaying the time that it takes to conceive. The effect was greatest in women of Asian ethnicity.

Periodontal disease is a chronic inflammation and infection of the gums and surrounding tissue. It is a major cause of adult tooth loss.

The Australian study was focused on the effect of improved dental care on pregnancy outcomes, and the researchers screened for periodontal disease in thousands of women expecting a baby. Among those women, approximately 2,000 had planned their pregnancy and provided additional information on how long it took to successfully conceive. The researchers found that, overall, periodontal disease delayed a planned pregnancy by about two months.

And it's not just women who need to take care of their teeth and gums. An 2010 Israeli study assessed 56 men between the ages 23 and 52 who came into a fertility clinic for sperm analysis. More than 80 percent of these men had either gingivitis (milder inflammation of the gums), chronic periodontal disease or aggressive periodontal disease, and the researchers found that 68 percent of the men had either a low sperm count or a zero sperm count.

Tooth decay and gum disease is linked to numerous health problems, such as heart disease, stroke, premature births and low-birth weight. Now, more research is linking it to infertility. You can prevent gum disease by removing plaque through daily brushing and flossing. Also, having professional cleanings with a dentist will help prevent and check for early signs of disease.

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