Perinatal Oral Health Education

To bring clarity to the topic of whether dental treatment is safe during pregnancy for both mother and child, the Foundation created the Perinatal Oral Health Program. The resulting guidelines and educational resources give caregivers the confidence of best practices based on science.

According to California’s Maternal and Infant Health Assessment (MIHA) 2007 study, only 34 percent of women visited a dentist or dental clinic during pregnancy. Studies also show that in maternal-child transmission of caries-causing bacteria, the earlier the bacteria passes, the higher the rate of tooth decay in the child.

In February 2009, the Foundation collaborated with the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, District IX, to develop “Oral Health During Pregnancy and Early Childhood: Evidence-Based Guidelines for Health Professionals.” An expert panel, comprised of state and national medical, dental and public health experts, concluded that prevention, diagnosis and treatment of oral diseases, including dental X-rays and the use of local anesthesia, are highly beneficial and can be undertaken during pregnancy with no additional fetal or maternal risk.

After publishing the guidelines, the CDA Foundation created the Cavity Keep Away campaign to educate patients. Targeted at a low-literacy population, the downloadable brochure, which is available in English and Spanish, illustrates proven practices to help parents keep their child’s teeth sound, from the womb to one year.

Tips include:

- Get a dental checkup before the baby is born to address any issues regarding cavities
- Do not share utensils with children
- Give everyone in the family their own toothbrush
- Wash pacifiers with soap and water only
- Wipe the baby’s gums before bed
- Feed the baby a healthy diet

This work highlights the importance of preventing dental disease in children by improving the oral health of mothers. It demonstrates the essential role of prenatal care providers and the necessity for strong links and effective referral systems to achieve the common goal of improved health.

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