1. Lewis, Judith A.
  2. Lewis, Judith A. PhD, RNC, FAAN

Article Content

Boggess, K. A., & Edelstein, B. L. (2006). Maternal Child Health Journal, 10(5 Supplement), S169-S174.


In 2001, the Surgeon General characterized dental disease as a silent epidemic. We know that the oral health of mothers significantly impacts birth outcomes and the oral health of their infants and that periodontal disease in pregnant women has been associated with preterm birth, pre-eclampsia, and small-for-gestational-age infants. These authors point out that low-income women have poorer dental health and poorer birth outcomes, usually because of less access to care. In addition to socioeconomic factors, lack of resources to pay for care, barriers to accessing care, and a knowledge deficit in understanding the importance of oral self-care practices contribute to inadequate oral health. Poor oral health in women also may increase the risk for other diseases, including atherosclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and diabetes. Poor oral health is prevalent among women of childbearing age, especially low-income women and women who are members of ethnic and racial minorities. Although it is important to ensure optimal oral health for a healthy pregnancy outcome, good oral health is a worthy goal in its own right. Oral health promotion includes access to care, education about the importance of oral health, prevention of periodontal disease and caries, and treatment of existing dental disease, but less than half of pregnant women receive dental care during their pregnancies. This rate is significantly higher among women covered by Medicaid, women with unintended pregnancies, and women who began prenatal care later than the first trimester. This article reminds all of us to pay attention to the oral health of the pregnant women we care for.


Judith A. Lewis