Oral health, a key part of overall health and well-being, is particularly important during pregnancy, when hormonal changes make gums more susceptible to swelling and infection. Some studies indicate that poor maternal oral health is linked to low birth weight and prematurity, two factors contributing to infant mortality. Oral health interventions could reduce the incidence of low-birth-weight and pre-term births and lay a good foundation of health for the child, whose oral health is strongly influenced by the mother’s oral health. The Center for Disease Control Oral Health Consensus statement assures all providers that oral health care during pregnancy is a recommended process. Patient information also informs patients of the importance and wisdom of oral health care during pregnancy.
Unfortunately, impoverished expectant mothers in Milwaukee, where infant mortality is a crisis among vulnerable women and girls, lack access to prenatal dental care. In a 2013, fewer than 20% of women covered by BadgerCare received oral health in the year prior to their delivery. BadgerCare reimbursement is such that few dentists are able to offer dental care to BadgerCare members.
Seton Dental Clinic developed a program of Prenatal Oral Health to improve access to care. Working with OB and Family Health practitioners, Seton offers collaborative partnerships to bring women to treatment at Seton. Collaborating partners refer women to Seton’s Oral Health Advocate to coordinate referral and support of women to Prenatal Oral Health. The program cares for women on BadgerCare or those who may be uninsured at the time of referral. A referral from a primary care provider is required to begin the process.
Following patient registration and enrollment, a dentist does an oral health assessment to direct care, a dental hygienist provides preventative prophylaxis and periodontal therapy to improve health and the dentist completes treatment with restorative care. Through the process, a woman is brought to full oral health prior to the end of her pregnancy. In order to complete the treatment, it is important for the woman to begin oral health treatment in her first trimester whenever possible.
Oral Health Advocate
Columbia St. Mary’s OB Clinic
Columbia St. Mary’s Family Health Center
Sixteenth Street Community Health Center
Wheaton St. Joseph Women’s Center
Children’s Community Health Plan
Seton Dental Clinic Contact Information
1730 S. 13th St.
Milwaukee, WI 53204