Oral health and pregnancy: Majority avoid dental checkups
BLOOMFIELD, Conn., USA: A new survey has shown that although many expectant and new mothers suffer from oral health problems, a considerable number do not visit the dentist on a regular basis. More than one-third of the respondents reported not having had a dental checkup for more than a year. The survey indicated too that medical professionals play a key role in educating women about ways to improve oral health habits.
In order to gain insights into women’s dental visiting patterns and knowledge about the impact of oral health on their own and their babies’ well-being, Cigna Corp., a global health service company, conducted an online survey in August among 801 pregnant women and new mothers aged 21–45.
Only 55 percent of the survey participants rated their oral health as very good or excellent, and 76 percent reported oral health problems during pregnancy, including bleeding gingivae, increased tooth sensitivity and tooth pain. However, only 43 percent of pregnant women stated that they had gone for dental checkups during pregnancy, and 36 percent said that they had not seen a dentist for more than a year. Cost of dental treatment was the primary reason for avoiding dental visits, especially in pregnant women without dental insurance. Overall, 33 percent of women surveyed said that they had skipped dental checkups during pregnancy because they were concerned it would be too expensive.
In addition, the survey indicated that targeted interventions by medical professionals could significantly improve the oral health habits of pregnant women and new mothers. Only 44 percent of the participants said that their physician had discussed oral health with them during routine pregnancy visits. About 77 percent of these women visited the dentist, while only 41 percent of women who were not educated about oral health by their doctor did so. Medical professionals could also play a key role in preventing oral health conditions associated with certain medications. About 31 percent of pregnant women and 29 percent of new mothers are on maintenance medication for chronic diseases, such as asthma, diabetes and high blood pressure, which can decrease salivary flow and thus increase the risk of dental caries and periodontal disease, for example.
With regard to the daily oral hygiene habits of new mothers, the investigators found that 36 percent have brushed and flossed less frequently since delivery, 67 percent of whom stated that they do not have time to keep up on their hygiene.
The full report can be accessed and downloaded at www.cigna.com.