During pregnancy, oral health care is essential, yet often underutilized.
According to a report from CareQuest Institute, approximately 60–75% of pregnant people experience oral health issues that raise the likelihood of poor birth outcomes and major complications. These percentages are even higher for expecting Black women, who are 27% more likely to experience severe pregnancy complications than white women.
Importance of Oral Health During Pregnancy
The report, which includes state-specific information and insights, explains the importance of oral health during pregnancy and postpartum as well as the barriers many pregnant people face to accessing oral health care. Key points include:
- Poor oral health during pregnancy has been linked to adverse birth outcomes, including preeclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy), preterm birth, and low-birth-weight infants.
- Women enrolled in Medicaid had significantly lower odds of visiting a dentist for a cleaning during pregnancy compared with women covered by private health insurance.
- Black pregnant women without dental coverage were more than 30% less likely to visit a dentist.
- Less than half (44%) of pregnant persons received dental care during their pregnancy, primarily due to financial barriers.
- Only one third (35%) of obstetricians and nurse midwives discussed oral health with their pregnant patients, and 77% of obstetricians reported that some patients had been “declined” treatment by dentists, although dental care during pregnancy is safe.
The report recommends four specific actions that state and federal policymakers can take to address barriers to care for pregnant people; the top recommendation is to extend postpartum coverage in Medicaid from 60 days to at least 12 months.
You may also be interested in:
- Dashboard: Medicaid Adult Dental Benefits During Pregnancy and Postpartum and Birth Outcomes by State, a data visualization that breaks down the information featured in this report by state.
- A Change That Can Help Address the Black Maternal Health Crisis, a blog post from CareQuest Institute President and CEO Myechia Minter-Jordan, MD, MBA, that discusses how expanding access to oral health care before, during, and after pregnancy can change lives and bring us closer to real health equity.
- Dental Visits during Pregnancy: Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System Analysis 2012–2015, an article in JDR Clinical & Translation Research exploring disparities among Black women and Medicaid-enrolled women related to dental visits during pregnancy.