Can Your Mouth be a Death Trap? Dentist says “Yes”

BRADES, Montserrat – Lack of proper oral care can be deadly, says Dentist Dr. Coretta Fergus.

Fergus who operates a private practice on Montserrat as well as serves as Head of Dentistry for the Ministry of Health says recent studies are shining a light on the importance of good oral care for healthy living and successful pregnancies.

“It has long been felt that persons do not value their mouth as much as the rest of their body. For example, if you have to make a choice between getting your teeth cleaned and going to check your heart, most of us will probably get our heart checked,” says Dr. Fergus. “However our mouth is not separated from the rest of our body and can actually affect other areas. It should therefore be given just as much value.”

The dentist referenced the first documented case of a still-born death linked to the mother’s oral bacteria.

Dr. Coretta Fergus

“According to a 2010 study, a 35-year-old woman gave birth to a full term baby that did not survive. Post-mortem studies of the baby revealed the presence of a bacterium Fusiform Nucleatum. This bacteria, was found in the stomach and lungs of the baby,” explains the dentist. “The baby actually died from septic inflammation and infection.”

The mother reported having pregnancy-associated gingivitis during the pregnancy. This is a condition where the gums bleed heavily. Pregnant women are more susceptible to gum disease than non-pregnant women because pregnancy hormones soften the gums and make them more penetrable to bacteria.

“DNA clonal tests of bacteria in the mother’s mouth and the baby’s body showed a match. This bacterium was not found in any other part of the mother’s body. It appears, bacteria were transferred across the placenta and into the amniotic fluid, causing the baby’s death,” explains Dr. Fergus.

Expectant mothers should not be alarmed but take measures to minimize the risk, says Dr. Fergus. The dentist recommends that women take the time to brush their teeth well, floss daily and curtail snacking on sugary foods. She also suggests more frequent visits to the dentist.

“This can vary from woman to woman. You should see your dentist every six months but if you have problems with gums (perio or gum disease) then increase visits to every month or two.”

While Dr. Fergus notes that this was a rare case, she said it strengthened the case for increased care for our mouths.

Dr. Coretta Fergus is also the owner of Regal Dental, a full-service dentistry office located in St. John’s Montserrat. Call 496-6644 or email for more information or to make an appointment.