Oral Health and Fertility

If we want to increase the chances of falling pregnant and produce a child that is as healthy as possible, it makes sense that both the male and female are as healthy as can be.  So, this begs the question: can fertility be affected by poor oral health? The answer is a definitive YES. This may come as a shock to many of us, as the mouth is so often seen in isolation from the rest of the body. However, as time passes we are seeing so many connections between the way that your oral health affects your general health.  

Let’s take gum disease to illustrate this point. Gum disease, which is one the most common diseases worldwide, is linked to conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke and cancer (to name just a few). The common denominator in all of these health conditions is chronic inflammation. This is extremely harmful to our health, and it turns out our gums (if we are not looking after them) are one of the most common sites for chronic inflammation in the body. Downscaling inflammation must be one of the goals if we are talking about fertility and avoiding difficulties with conception.

Here are 5 reasons your oral health matters for fertility:

  1. For the guys – a recent study in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology has shown that high levels of plaque and bleeding gums may be a risk factor for poor sperm motility (their ability to swim), and a reduced sperm count.
  2. Another one for the guys – a recent study in the Journal of Midwifery and Reproductive Health has shown a clear correlation between chronic gum disease and erectile dysfunction.
  3. Gum disease has been shown to delay conception time. In a recent study, out of the University of Helsinki, an aggressive strand of bacteria living underneath the gums is to blame.
  4. Endometriosis is a known cause of infertility. A link between endometriosis and gum disease has recently been established. It is thought that the immune reaction associated with endometriosis is increased by bacteria associated with gum disease.
  5. Gum disease can contribute to premature births and low birth weights. Smoking, alcohol, diabetes, drug abuse and young or advanced maternal age are known contributors to adverse pregnancy outcomes. However, what we are finding out is that gum disease is also a major risk factor. A study out of the University of Torino has shown that aggressive bacteria associated with gum disease have been found in amniotic fluid or placenta samples of woman with premature labor and gum disease.

The purpose of this information is not to scare anyone. Rather, it is to get both woman and men prioritising their oral health for improved fertility and overall health. The good news is that we are largely in control of these potential problems. I recommend: brushing twice a day for 2 minutes; flossing 1-2 times per day making sure you get the floss underneath the gums; practice oil pulling first thing in the morning – ideally for 15 minutes; avoid inflammatory refined/processed carbohydrates; eat foods daily that are seasonal, local, organic and high in omega-3s, vitamin C, D, antioxidants and fibre. This has been shown to decrease inflammation in the gums. Last but not least – visit your dental professional for check-ups and cleans at least 6-monthly!

Lewis Ehrlich