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Pregnancy and Oral Health: Dentists' Care Required

OAK BROOK, Ill., Dec. 18 /PRNewswire/ -- Most pregnant women in America don't see their dentists for important oral health care nearly as often as recommended, which can cause ongoing health problems for both mother and her baby.

In fact, fully a quarter of pregnant women didn't see the dentist at all during pregnancy and 38 percent visited the dentist just once. That's one key finding from a survey(1) of American children's oral health, conducted this summer on behalf of Delta Dental Plans Association, the nation's leading dental benefits provider. Delta Dental commissioned the survey to build greater knowledge about the state of children's oral health.

According to the American Academy of Periodontology, about 50 percent of women get "pregnancy gingivitis," a disease that makes the gums sore and swollen. In some studies, pregnant women with gum disease have given birth to low-weight or pre-term babies, who are at risk for many serious diseases including chronic lung disease, brain injury, motor and sensory impairment, learning difficulties and behavioral problems.

Dentists can identify gum and teeth problems during a routine checkup. Besides brushing, flossing and chewing sugar-free gum, women should get a thorough dental exam if they are planning to become pregnant. They also should get their teeth cleaned professionally once they are expecting.

Babies Need Oral Health Care, Too

The Children's Oral Health Survey suggests that caregivers recognize the importance of oral health care for infants, but don't always understand the techniques that promote oral health.

"On one hand, more than three in four survey respondents strongly agree that giving children sugary treats or a bottle of juice to go to sleep can cause cavities. And nearly two-thirds of those we surveyed strongly agreed that it is important to clean a baby's gums daily," said Jed J. Jacobson, DDS, MS, MPH, chief science officer and senior V.P. at Delta Dental. "But 35 percent of caregivers say they actually clean their baby's gums just a few times a week, or less. Dentists recommend that caregivers wipe the bay's gums with a wet washcloth twice a day, including once just before bedtime.

"Also, only 40 percent of the respondents strongly agreed that caregivers can pass dental disease to their child by sharing items such as spoons or straws, or by cleaning a pacifier in their own mouth and giving it to the baby. Rather, they should wash the pacifier with soap and water, rinse, and then return to the baby."

"Many Americans don't understand how important their children's baby teeth are to lifelong oral health," Jacobson said. "There's a continuing need for more education to teach practices that will ensure lifelong oral health. And, since people overwhelmingly prefer the dentist as their primary oral health information source, dental benefits that encourage visits to the dentist are crucial."

The not-for-profit Delta Dental Plans Association ( based in Oak Brook, Ill., is the leading national network of independent dental service corporations specializing in providing dental benefits programs to more than 54 million Americans in more than 89,000 employee groups throughout the country.

(1) Morpace Inc. conducted the 2009 "Children's Oral Health Survey." Random 15-minute telephone interviews were conducted nationally with 914 primary caregivers of children from birth to age 11. Respondents with multiple children were asked to think about their youngest child when answering questions

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SOURCE Delta Dental Plans Association

SOURCE Delta Dental Plans Association
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