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Pregnant at Dentist OfficeThe latest data show that women in Massachusetts are much less likely to obtain oral health care during pregnancy than before pregnancy. That’s a trend that the Department and our partners in the provider community are working to reverse.

Earlier this year DPH released the groundbreaking Massachusetts Oral Health Practice Guidelines for Pregnancy and Early Childhood, a comprehensive roadmap to help OB/GYN and pediatric providers incorporate messages and information about the importance of oral health into their patient visits. Our goal is to encourage medical and oral health providers to work together to provide coordinated preventive services and treatment to pregnant women and young children.

Our partners at the community level have been invaluable in helping to make providers aware of these new guidelines, and our work together has not gone unnoticed. We’re delighted to announce that the Guidelines have been recognized at the 2016 National Maternal and Child Epidemiology Awards, in the category of Effective Practice at the State Level: Improving public health practice through effective use of data, epidemiology and applied research.

So why is oral health so important for pregnant women and their babies? During pregnancy, physical and physiological changes can result in gingivitis – the most common oral condition of pregnancy. Left untreated, gingivitis can progress to more serious periodontal disease. What’s more, the gastric acid associated with morning sickness can cause dental caries (cavities).  Pregnant women who have caries may transmit caries-causing bacteria to their infants.

For children, the impact of poor oral health is equally worrisome. Dental caries are far and away the #1 chronic condition – five times more prevalent than asthma. Untreated caries may cause pain, school absences, difficulty concentrating, and poor appearance – all of which can adversely affect a child’s quality of life and ability to succeed academically and socially.

These new guidelines are designed to encourage education, coordination, and collaboration across health professions so we can improve oral health care for pregnant women and their young children. You can learn more about the guidelines here.

If you’re a provider working with pregnant women or young children, we hope you’ll help spread the word about the importance of oral health for your patients.

Editor’s Note: this post appears today as part of the commemoration of National Minority Health Month. It initially ran on the blog in November 2016.

Written By:


Director, Office of Data Translation

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