DETROIT--Research suggests that hormonal changes in pregnant women place them at increased risk of gum disease, which can lead to premature or low birth weight babies and increase the chance of toxemia in expectant mothers.
To address the health of expectant mothers and newborns, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan is working with its participating obstetricians/gynecologists, family practice physicians and nurse midwife practitioners--as well as its participating and network dentists--in a new campaign that focuses on the importance of oral health exams for pregnant women.
During visits to participating physicians and midwives, expectant mothers with Blues' dental and medical coverage can receive a coupon for one additional free dental cleaning.
The coupons will be honored for free cleanings with any dentist participating with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan or its dental network subsidiary, DenteMax. The coupon will be distributed through Dec. 31 and is valid for six months after receipt.
Just over one million individuals in Michigan have Blues' dental coverage. The company expects about 3,000 expectant moms will receive coupons. In addition to the coupons, expectant moms will receive information on how gum disease during pregnancy can lead to pregnancy complications.
"Oral health should always be considered primary care and this additional service by Blue Cross Blue Shield will help people to better understand the connection between oral health and overall health. As a result of this program, even if just one mother is prevented from delivering a premature baby, it will be a tremendous success," said Gerri Cherney, executive director of the 6,000-member Michigan Dental Association.
"Dental care is one of the most neglected areas of health care during pregnancy," said Michael Weiss, D.O., a board certified obstetrician/gynecologist and member of the Michigan Osteopathic Association Board of Trustees.
"Expectant mothers and their children can only benefit from the Blues' campaign to promote good oral health through an interdisciplinary, whole-body approach to preventive care."
"This free dental cleaning coupon is the proverbial ounce of prevention that just might be worth a pound of cure," said Paul O. Farr, M.D., president of the Michigan State Medical Society. "We applaud the Blues for taking this extra step to help ensure healthy mothers and babies."
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan piloted a similar coupon program earlier this year to encourage health plan members with diabetes and ischemic heart disease enrolled in its BlueHealthConnection care management program to get regular oral exams. About 1,100 diabetics and members with heart disease in Blues' care management have taken advantage of the free coupons to date. Research suggests that diabetics with gum disease who receive regular oral exams can experience overall better health.
"Science is increasingly connecting good oral health to good general health," said Peggy Anthony, director of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan's dental programs. "Since we offer both medical and dental coverage we have a keen interest in how dental coverage can benefit an individual's overall health."