Periodontitis is an inflammatory disease of the supporting tissues of the teeth caused by specific microorganisms or groups of specific microorganisms, resulting in progressive destruction of the periodontal ligament and alveolar bone with pocket formation, recession, or both. The subgingival microbiota in patients with periodontitis provides a significant and persistent gram-negative bacterial challenge to the host. These organisms and their products, such as lipopolysaccharide (LPS) have ready access to the periodontal tissues and to the circulation via the sulcular epithelium, which is frequently ulcerated and discontinuous. Just as the periodontal tissues mount an immunoinflammatory response to bacteria and their products, systemic challenge with these agents also induces a major vascular response. This host response may offer explanatory mechanisms for the interactions between periodontal infection and a variety of systemic disorders. Human case-control studies have demonstrated that women who have low birth weight infants as a consequence of either preterm labor or premature rupture of membranes tend to have more severe periodontal disease than mothers with normal birth weight infants. The present paper discusses the role of periodontal disease as a possible risk factor for preterm low birth weight infants.
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