Tender, swollen or bleeding gums are a fact of life for many including for women hoping for IVF success.

An estimated 9 in 10 people suffer from mild inflammation caused by bacteria (known as dental plaque) in the mouth.

Can gum disease also affect fertility and the IVF treatment process?

A new study by US experts suggests a possible link between the odds of getting pregnant and oral health. The researchers looked at women who reported having periodontitis, a common and severe form of gum infection. Those who took part in the study had either been diagnosed or received treatment for the condition. Or they’d had an adult tooth come loose on its own. A comparison was made between their probability of getting pregnant versus women without periodontitis.

Gum disease and IVF

The results showed the chance of pregnancy was lower for those with the gum disease. It’s not the first time an association has been made between fertility, inflammation and mouth hygiene. An analysis of data on more than 3,400 patients concluded that looking after oral health is a key consideration for women wanting a baby. The authors at the University of Western Australia who carried out the research recommended regular brushing.

Exactly why gum disease affects pregnancy chances isn’t yet clear. But the theory is the body’s inflammatory response has a negative effect on fertility. Sugary foods are the main culprit in gum disease – try and reduce these as part of your IVF nutrition plan. The best diet for IVF should instead include plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, lean protein such as fish and poultry, and whole grains like quinoa.