Improving Oral Health for Pregnant Women
Plenty of evidence shows that oral health is important during pregnancy. A recent report by the Children’s Dental Health Project (CDHP) calls more attention to this, explaining that a pregnant woman with healthy teeth and gums can also put her newborn on a path to good oral health.
- Dental coverage during pregnancy for low-income women is inconsistent from state to state. For example, Arizona’s Medicaid program doesn’t offer pregnant women dental benefits, but Maryland’s program does. In some states, coverage drops right after delivery, while benefits continue for 60 days beyond in other states.
- Health professionals, insurers, medical and dental schools, and consumers have different roles to play in making oral health a routine part of prenatal care. Unfortunately, these stakeholders are not taking a coordinated approach.
- Many women don’t realize that getting dental care during pregnancy is both safe and important. Women’s health leaders, family advocates and health providers can help raise their awareness.
Now, here’s the good news. Efforts are afoot to create a productive conversation about what can be done to improve women’s oral health during pregnancy. A meeting in January will bring together key stakeholders, including leaders from CDHP, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
In the meantime, those of you who care about oral health can take some concrete steps on your own to make a difference. Consider sharing this web page with women you know or share it on your Facebook page. It offers four tips for how pregnant women can give their newborns a healthy start. (Spoiler alert: One of them reminds us of the benefits of drinking water that is fluoridated.)
Health professionals and health educators have crucial roles to play. Both the American Academy of Pediatrics and CDHP have created resources to share. AAP has created the Protect Tiny Teeth Toolkit which provides resources in English and Spanish to those who care for and educate pregnant women about oral health. There are also pages in English and Spanish on Healthychildren.org for pregnant and parenting moms. Together, we have developed an infographic that can support efforts to educate women about oral health during pregnancy. This attractive infographic is available in English, Spanish or Chinese.
The birth of a new child is typically an occasion for joy. Encouraging more pregnant women to take care of their oral health can give families an extra reason to smile.