Pregnant women and oral health

By the CDHP team

A new post on Delta Dental of Illinois' blog urges pregnant women to pay close attention to their oral health — and it's a message we all need to circulate. Although receiving dental care during pregnancy is safe for both women and their developing babies, roughly one out of four women do not receive dental care during pregnancy. According to the blog:

It’s common knowledge that when a woman becomes pregnant there are drastic changes in her hormone levels. These changes can seriously affect a woman’s dental hygiene. While having a healthy mouth is always important, pregnancy can intensify dental disease. Minor dental problems that exist before pregnancy could worsen. Oral infections can also present risks to an expectant mother’s overall health, leading to other medical problems during pregnancy.

This summer, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) adopted new recommendations that underscore the oral health needs of pregnant women. ACOG notes that women with poor dental health “may harbor high levels of Streptococcus mutans” — the primary bacteria that cause tooth decay. ACOG’s Committee on Health Care for Underserved Women advises medical practitioners that “women should routinely be counseled about the maintenance of good oral health as well as the safety and importance of oral health care during pregnancy.”

Patrice Pascual, executive director of the Children's Dental Health Project (CDHP), welcomed the new recommendations, saying they “emphasize that it’s safe for women to get dental care at any point during a pregnancy. We applaud ACOG’s leadership in raising awareness of the importance of oral health for pregnant women.”

Since 2001, CDHP has worked with diverse organizations to both raise awareness of this issue and strengthen pregnant women’s access to dental care. Much of CDHP’s recent work in this arena has been supported by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. CDHP is assisting the Michigan Department of Community Health in developing guidelines for perinatal care, creating an action plan for implementing these guidelines, and identifying metrics for assessing progress.

CDHP has assisted the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services with disseminating new materials (InsureKidsNow.gov) that the agency is preparing to educate pregnant women about the importance of accessing dental care.

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