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Perinatal oral health discussion and research continues: Here are some of the latest finds

July 15, 2014
There is a need for more data on perinatal oral health and perinatal oral health care around the nation. Experts gathered to disucss the topic in Michigan and share their findings here.
The link between the oral cavity and the rest of the body continues to be explored. A Summary of the 2013 Michigan Perinatal Oral Health Conference, August 2013, is now available. While this document was created for Michigan, most of the information is applicable to any state. About 70 people representing medical/dental health professionals, local, state, and federal government agencies, advocacy groups, and academia attended the Michigan perinatal conference. Like in other states, there is a need for more data on perinatal oralhealth and perinatal oral health care in Michigan.
The document provides an overview of the presentations and discussions at the two-day conference held last August, including a proposed action plan for the next steps. The Perinatal Infant Oral Health Action Plan can be located in Appendix A, and it outlines the goals acknowledged by conference participants as the guiding principles for program planning and policy development. These objectives provide a framework for the Perinatal Oral Health Program Action Plan, and are indicative of the federal priorities that were summarized by Commander Pamela Vodicka. The Michigan Department of Community Health stated that the Action Plan is the initial step for engaging experts to further refine program activities and move toward implementation strategies to improve health outcomes.(1)

There are numerous problems in the area of perinatal oral health, and one is that many dentists do not accept certain patients, such as Medicaid patients. Also, some are uncomfortable treating very young children unless they have specialty training. Many are affected by antiquated teachings from dental school where they were told not to treat pregnant women for fear of harming the fetus.

Another resource is available through the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry from 2011.(2) The California Dental Association Foundation has a document from 2010.(3) The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has a 2011 document entitled “Guideline on perinatal oral health care.”(4)

Providing oral and periodontal care during pregnancy has been shown to be safe and effective.(5) An interesting article can be found in the New York Times.(6) It references “Oral Health Care During Pregnancy: A National Consensus Statement.”(7) The purpose of the statement is to increase awareness of the importance and safety of women’s oral health care during pregnancy through the promotion of evidence-based science, and ultimately to improve the provision and quality of oral health services to pregnant women. A one-page guide on “Pharmacological Considerations for Pregnant Women” can be downloaded, as well as “Tips for Good Oral Health During Pregnancy,” a two-page handout for pregnant women.(8,9) “Oral Health Care During Pregnancy and Through the Lifespan” is available through the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.(10)

There are numerous resources at our fingertips! Let’s use them.