A dental check-up is seen in this undated handout photo. REUTERS/Newscom/Handout

It's been suggested that gum disease raises the risk of preterm birth in pregnant women and it was thought that getting rid of gum disease may potentially reduce the risk of preterm delivery.

Not so, according to a new study.

(Our) study, lead investigator Dr. Steven Offenbacher told Reuters Health, showed that a standard dental visit to provide periodontal care during pregnancy did not impact pregnancy outcomes, nor did it stop maternal gum problems during pregnancy.

Offenbacher of the North Carolina Oral Health Institute, Durham and colleagues draw their conclusion from a study involving 1806 pregnant women with periodontal (gum) disease, all of whom were receiving standard obstetric care.

The women were randomized to receive up to four sessions of gum care before the 24th week of pregnancy or after delivery.

According to the investigators, rates of preterm delivery were no different in the two groups. Preterm delivery rates were roughly 13 percent in the women who made the four trips to the dentist and nearly 12 percent in those that did not.

That's not to say pregnant women should not get their teeth cleaned and treated as needed; they should, the researchers emphasize, noting that treating gum disease during pregnancy is safe.

Worsening of gum disease occurs in about 25 percent of pregnancies. The bacterial infection attacks the teeth-supporting tissues below the gum line. Left untreated, it can lead to tooth loss as well as a host of other problems.

SOURCE: Obstetrics and Gynecology, September 2009.