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Pregnant dental patients

Health groups spread word that dental care is safe, necessary

When it comes to ensuring that expectant mothers are receiving needed oral health care, there's good news and bad news.

First, the bad news. Too many pregnant women face challenges obtaining oral health care for a number of reasons. An overwhelming number do not recognize the importance of dental care during pregnancy and therefore do not seek it. Not enough obstetric providers incorporate discussions of oral health care in practice. And some dentists avoid treating pregnant women because of misconceptions regarding safety.

On the other hand, thanks to an evolving body of evidence that dental care is not only safe during pregnancy but can also prevent long-term health problems for both the mother and child, many dentists and health organizations are actively promoting the importance of oral health care during pregnancy.

The Connecticut State Dental Association is one group at the forefront of these efforts."Dental care is safe for pregnant patients and can prevent future health problems for mothers and their babies," said Dr. Carolyn Malon, CSDA president.

In collaboration with a number of health organizations, the CSDA is spearheading a campaign to help dentists ensure that pregnant women receive care. CSDA recently produced "Considerations for the Dental Treatment of Pregnant Women," a four-page resource that aims to help dentists understand the importance of providing oral health care to pregnant women and making appropriate decisions about patients' treatment options.

This tool was a collaborative effort with input from the Connecticut Section of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Connecticut Chapter of the American Academy of Family Physicians and other health organizations.

CSDA is emphasizing the safety of dental care throughout pregnancy. "It is important that patients adhere to their regular dental hygiene practices, but it is of equal importance for their dentists to see them during their pregnancy," said Dr. Malon.

The CSDA publication provides answers to basic questions both dentists and expecting mothers may have about dental care during pregnancy, including questions on whether sedation, X-rays and pharmaceuticals are safe.

Considerations for the Dental Treatment of Pregnant Women is available for download on CSDA's website.

"The Connecticut Health Foundation is pleased to have provided funding to the CSDA to produce this publication; and we hope this will help disseminate critical information to assist dentists in caring for their pregnant patients," said Patricia Baker, president and CEO of the Connecticut Health Foundation.

It's not the first time that health organizations have come together to forge consensus on the issue.

In 2012, an expert workgroup meeting convened by the Health Resources and Services Administration in collaboration with the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the ADA and coordinated by the National Maternal and Child Oral Health Resource Center produced a consensus statement emphasizing that dental care is safe and important throughout pregnancy. The workgroup included representation from the ADA Council on Access, Prevention and Interprofessional Relations.

The statement—along with tip sheets, talking points, a PowerPoint presentation and a patient education guide—can be accessed here.

The ADA Catalog also offers useful resources on the treatment of expectant mothers. The ADA Practical Guide to Patients with Medical Conditions has a chapter on women's health that includes the treatment of pregnant patients.

Patient education brochures that dentists can use to communicate with patients and OB-GYNs include:

• Pregnancy and Oral Health (W100) emphasizes the importance of dental health and indicates that it is generally safe to have dental treatment during pregnancy—and that it is more risky for a pregnant woman to postpone necessary dental treatment than to have an X-ray. The brochure also explains how increased hormone levels can affect the gums, how to fight tooth decay with a healthy diet, recommends daily home care and reminds patients to discuss any medications with their dentist.

• Healthy Smiles for Mother and Baby (W196) shows mothers-to-be how to maintain good oral health before and after the baby arrives. The brochure points out that pregnancy hormones can increase sensitivity and make home care especially important, and that cavity-causing bacteria can be passed from mother to baby. Also included are tips for keeping the baby's teeth safe from tooth decay and when to schedule the first dental visit. This is an excellent resource for dentists to distribute to OB-GYNs for their patients.

Both brochures are available in packs of 50. Member price is $27; nonmember price is $40.50.