A new study suggests dental teams should work with pregnant women in an effort to 'break the cycle' of 'inherited' periodontal disease.

Adults with periodontitis transmit bacteria that can cause the disease in future to their children, the study suggests. This bacteria remain in the oral cavity even when the children undergo treatment of various kinds, reinforcing the need for preventive care in the first year of a baby’s life.

The work, conducted at the University of Campinas (UNICAMP) in the state of São Paulo, Brazil, found that the parents’ oral microbiome is a 'determinant of the subgingival microbial colonisation of their children'.

The article’s authors conclude that 'dysbiotic microbiota acquired by children of periodontitis patients at an early age are resilient to shift and the community structure is maintained even after controlling the hygiene status'.

According to dental surgeon Mabelle de Freitas Monteiro, first author of the article, she and her group have been researching periodontitis for 10 years, observing parents with the disease and its impact on their children’s health.

'If the findings are applied to day-to-day dental practice, the study can be said to help design more direct approaches. Knowing that periodontal disease may affect the patient’s family is an incentive to use preventive treatment, seek early diagnosis and mitigate complications.'

The principal investigator for both projects was Renato Corrêa Viana Casarin, a professor at UNICAMP’s Piracicaba Dental School (FOP) and last author of the article.

For Casarin, parents should start caring for the health of their children’s gums when they are infants. 'This pioneering study compares parents with and without periodontitis. In children of the former, we found subgingival bacterial colonisation at a very early age.

'However,"inheriting" the problem doesn’t mean a child is fated to develop the disease in adulthood. Hence the importance of keeping an eye open for the smallest signs and seeking specialised help.'

He added: 'Because the parents had periodontitis, their children assumed this community with disease characteristics. They carried the bacterial information into their adult lives,' adding that the analysis of bacterial colonisation pointed to a greater likelihood of transmission by the mother.

The research group will now work with pregnant women in an effort to 'break the cycle' by preventing bacterial colonisation of their children’s mouths.

'We’ll treat the mothers during pregnancy, before the babies are born, and try to find out if it’s possible to prevent bacterial colonisation from occurring.'

The article, Parents with periodontitis impact the subgingival colonization of their offspring, can be found at: www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-80372-4.