Under-served Dental Patients

Within the American population there are three groups of patients that are not receiving adequate dental care. Personally, I have treated underprivileged children for seven years under the auspices of the Head Start program. Additionally, I have treated elderly patients in 26 different nursing homes for a five year period.

Those are two of the groups that are not receiving enough care to eliminate dental disease. The third group is somewhat a surprise. Pregnant women.

Why is that? The answer is somewhat complex.

Fear of hurting the child in the womb has involved the factors such as x-rays, anesthesia, analgesics and antibiotics. Much has been written and said about the dangers of treating pregnant women. It has been proclaimed that dental treatment should only be done during the second trimester.

This has turned out not only to be false but the opposite to be true. In fact, the non- treatment of pregnant women negatively impacts the health of the child. The American Medical Association, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Dental Association have advised the following for pregnant women:

  • Reassure women that oral health care, including use of radio-graphs, pain medication, and local anesthesia, is safe throughout pregnancy.
  • If the last dental visit took place more than 6 months ago or if any oral health problems were identified during the assessment, advise women to schedule an appointment with a dentist as soon as possible. If urgent care is needed, write and facilitate a formal referral to a dentist who maintains a collaborative relationship with the prenatal care health professional.
  • Encourage women to seek oral health care, practice good oral hygiene, eat healthy foods, and attend prenatal classes during pregnancy.
  • Counsel women to follow oral health professionals’ recommendations for achieving and maintaining optimal oral health.

So, worried about x-rays? We have lead aprons; Anesthesia? Lidocaine is approved by the OBGYN’s; Antibiotics?

When no allergies are known, standard drugs can be used. So again, if you are thinking of pregnancy, get your teeth fixed. If you are pregnant, get your teeth fixed. If you have children, get your teeth fixed. Studies have shown when pregnant women maintain their oral health, it also increases the health of the child later in their life.