Good oral health is of great importance to female and male fertility

Oral health affects both male and female fertility, pregnancy, and the future health of the unborn child. Good oral hygiene can prevent small and innocent symptoms in the mouth, if left untreated, can cause chronic inflammation in the mouth. Prolonged, untreated inflammation in the mouth causes stress and inflammatory condition throughout the body.

Dental care before pregnancy is essential for fertility and a healthy pregnancy. It is important to ensure that the teeth, gums; the whole mouth is in good condition. Fertility is also protected by good oral health!

Good oral health protects pregnancy. Oral health problems during pregnancy can affect the pregnancy, wellbeing of the mother, fetal development and also the unborn baby. Poor oral health has been linked to an increased risk of preterm birth, low birth weight and pre-eclampsia. If mother has caries, it is more likely that the child has caries in the future.

Smoking and sniffing are factors that impair oral hygiene.

Smokers are at higher risk of developing dental and gum disease compared to non-smokers. Adverse factors are detectable visually, but also when measuring inflammatory values in the blood. Inflammatory markers are elevated in smokers. Through the bloodstream, the bacteria in the mouth travels forward and is a burden on the whole body. Smoking and the use of tobacco products (snuff/snorting) multiplies the risk of dental and gum disease.

Poor oral health affects how much bacteria is in man’s body and sperm. Abnormal bacterial counts in sperm are one of the biggest reasons for declined male fertility. Getting pregnant may be more difficult or be prolonged if there is an inflammation in the mouth, because the inflammation strains the normal functioning of the body. Inflammation causes oxidative stress. Oxidative stress may lead to structural and functional disorders of cells. Oxidative stress disrupts male fertility in two different ways. It damages the sperm membrane and reduces sperm motility and the ability to fertilize the egg. Secondly, it damages the DNA of sperm. Damaged sperm harms normal development of the embryo.

Oxidative stress also affects female fertility. Oxidative stress interferes with the normal endocrine system, causing hormonal imbalance. It disturbs many physiological events in a woman’s reproductive health. It affects the maturation of the ovum and ovulation, as well as the attachment, growth and differentiation of the blastocyst. It damages female gametes too; the DNA of the ovum may be damaged due to oxidative stress.

Pregnancy is a time when the family is motivated to make lifestyle changes to improve their future health. This time should be utilized. By increasing the knowledge of healthcare professionals, the counselling and guidance in family planning and during pregnancy is motivating and effective.

Author: Marika Mettälä, Senior Lecturer in Midwifery, Tampere University of Applied Sciences, Finland

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