To tell the tooth about low-birth-weight babies

Gerald W. Deas M.D., MPH | 12/13/2018, 1:39 p.m.

Babies born weighing less than 2,500 grams and who spent less than 37 weeks in the mother’s womb are known as preterm low-birth-weight infants. Whether it’s the tooth or the truth, the cause of these low-weight bundles of joy might be poor dental health.

There are many varieties of bacteria found in the mouth, and when dental hygiene is poor, they multiply in numbers. The daily intake of sugary beverages and confectionary treats result in the formation of cavities in the teeth. Bacteria in the mouth also cause gum disease.

Unfortunately, bacteria are not restricted to the mouth. Every chance they get, they invade the blood stream and travel “first class” to other organs of the body. If the defense mechanisms of the body are depressed, because of poor nutrition and other factors, the bacteria can set up house wherever they invade. If the bacteria travel to the uterus, this organ can produce chemicals that can cause premature contractions known as infective slide. This contraction is accompanied by opening of the cervix, allowing bacteria to enter the uterus where the baby lies peacefully surrounded by membranes. If the membranes become infected and rupture, the baby will enter the world prematurely.

The cost of treating preterm babies amounts to as much as $75,000 from the time of birth to going home. To tell the tooth (truth), good nutrition and dental care is a must to prevent preterm babies and ensure a happy homecoming for infant and mother.