Regular preventive dental visits are important throughout our lives, and, during pregnancy, they are even more essential. Yet nearly half of women don’t see a dentist during pregnancy. All infections in a pregnant woman, including tooth decay and gum disease, pose a potential risk to the baby’s health as well as the mother’s.
Hormonal changes during pregnancy
Pregnant women are at an increased risk for bleeding gums and toothaches. Hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy can worsen conditions such as gingivitis and gum disease. Dental checkups alert pregnant women to incipient problems.
Dental benefit plan maternity programs
More than 1/3 of expectant moms admit that is has been more than 1 year since their last dental checkup. Why? Cost is the main reason pregnant women give for skipping checkups, EVEN those with dental insurance benefits. Yet, most dental plans cover preventive care visits every 6 months with low or no copays. In fact some dental plans have special maternity programs that include additional services such as extra cleanings and discounts on oral health prescriptions.
The statistics speak for themselves:
- While 62% of women brush at least 2x/day, that percentage climbs to 76% for women who participate in dental plan maternity programs
- and, flossing climbs from 48% to 81%!
What about physician influence?
We know that oral health is inextricably linked to overall wellness. So why don’t more doctors include oral health in discussions with their patients? Pregnant women see their doctors. (Well, a whopping 97% of them do). Yet only 44% of expectant moms report that oral health was mentioned during those visits. What a missed opportunity for both mom and baby, for both oral health and overall wellness.
Women whose doctors discussed oral health during pregnancy are 2x more likely to:
- Have a dental checkup while pregnant
- Read materials about the importance of oral health
Postpartum Oral Health
The effects of doctor influence last beyond delivery. Postpartum dental visits are important, especially considering that good dental hygiene habits may slip once the baby arrives. More than 1/3 of new mothers say they are brushing and flossing less frequently than before their babies’ births.
The role of pediatricians
While half of new mothers clean their babies’ gums daily, that percentage jumps to 2/3 when the pediatrician discussed baby oral health. Yet, 1/3 of new moms report that their pediatricians did not discuss infant oral health.
- More than 1/3 of expectant moms haven’t had a dental checkup in over a year.
- Oral health hygiene improves significantly for pregnant women in dental plan maternity benefit programs.
- Physicians, especially obstetricians and pediatricians, have the ability to strongly influence dental hygiene habits of pregnant women and new moms.
There is a critical need for more medical and oral health integration, especially during and after pregnancy.
Resource: National survey released by CIGNA healthcare