According to the study presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine, pregnant women who used a medicated chewing gum reduced their risk of preterm birth. Premature babies are more likely to experience serious health complications, both in infancy and later in life, suggests JAMA Pediatrics.
It is a medicinal chewing gum designed to improve oral health. The researchers explained that the product contains xylitol, a natural alcohol used as a sugar substitute. It helps remove plaque and tartar on the teeth and below the gum line, reducing the amount of potentially harmful bacteria in the mouth.
The trial was conducted by Kjersti Aagaard at Texas Children’s in Houston, Texas. More than 10,000 women participated, half were given a bottle of chewing gum at their monthly medical check-ups. They were advised to consume it for 10 minutes in the morning and at night, in addition to receiving standard advice on caring for their teeth.
As a result, of the pregnant women who chewed gum every day during their pregnancy, only 13% had a premature birth. Additionally, 9% gave birth to low birth weight babies. On the other hand, of the total of those who did not chew the product, 17% experienced premature labor and 13% had low birth weight babies. The effect appears to occur because chewing gum reduces gum disease, previously linked to premature birth.
Study co-author Kjersi Aagaard said “using xylitol chewing gum as an intervention before 20 weeks of pregnancy reduced preterm births.” She further notes that the trial will need to be repeated in high-income preterm birth countries before concluding the effect of chewing gum during pregnancy. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), one in ten births is premature in the world.