12 Tips for a Healthy Halloween

Halloween Sweets

Halloween is around the corner, which for most children means bags of free candy and a chance to build a stockpile of sweets for the winter. No surprise, Halloween can also present parents with a variety of health and safety challenges. “It’s OK to eat that candy on Halloween but it’s important to have a plan,” says ADA dentist Dr. Ana Paula Ferraz-Dougherty.

Here’s how you can help your family stay MouthHealthy on Halloween and year-round.

1. Time It Right

Eat Halloween candy (and other sugary foods) with meals or shortly after mealtime. Saliva production increases during meals. This helps cancel out acids produced by bacteria in your mouth and rinse away food particles.

2. Stay Away from Sweet Snacks

Snacking can increase your risk of cavities, and it’s double the trouble if you keep grabbing sugary treats from the candy bowl. ”Snacking on candy throughout the day is not ideal for your dental health or diet,” Dr. Ferraz-Dougherty says.

3. Choose Candy Carefully

Avoid hard candy and other sweets that stay in your mouth for a long time. Aside from how often you snack, the length of time sugary food is in your mouth plays a role in tooth decay. Unless it is a sugar-free product, candies that stay in the mouth for a long period of time subject teeth to an increased risk for tooth decay.

4. Avoid Sticky Situations

Sticky candies cling to your teeth. The stickier candies, like taffy and gummy bears, take longer to get washed away by saliva, increasing the risk for tooth decay.

5. Have a Plan

It’s tempting to keep that candy around, but your teeth will thank you if you limit your stash. “Have your family pick their favorites and donate the rest,” Dr. Ferraz-Dougherty says. “Look for organizations that help you donate candy to troops overseas, like Operation Gratitude, or see if your dentist has a candy take-back program.”

6.Drink More Water

Drinking fluoridated water can help prevent tooth decay. If you choose bottled water, look for kinds that are fluoridated.

7. Maintain a Healthy Diet

Your body is like a complex machine. The foods you choose as fuel and how often you “fill up” affect your general health and that of your teeth and gums.

8. Stay Away from Sugary Beverages

This includes soda, sports drinks and flavored waters. When teeth come in frequent contact with beverages that contain sugar, the risk of tooth decay is increased.

9. Chew Gum with the ADA Seal

Chewing sugarless gum for 20 minutes after meals helps reduce tooth decay, because increased saliva flow helps wash out food and neutralize the acid produced by bacteria. “You might even want to think about giving sugarless gum out as a treat instead of candy,” says Dr. Ferraz-Dougherty. Find one with the ADA Seal.

10. Brush Twice a Day

Brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes with an ADA-accepted fluoride toothpaste. Remember, replace your toothbrush every three or four months, or sooner if the bristles are frayed. A worn toothbrush won’t do a good job of cleaning your teeth.

11. Clean Between Your Teeth

Floss your teeth once a day. Decay-causing bacteria get between teeth where toothbrush bristles can’t reach. Flossing helps remove plaque and food particles from between the teeth and under the gum line.

12. Visit an ADA Dentist

Regular visits to your ADA-member dentist can help prevent problems from occurring and catch those that do occur early, when they are easy to “treat.”

Why taking a selfie while brushing your teeth could be good for you!

Teeth have been big news lately. First, there was the issue of whether flossing really helps lower the risk for tooth decay and gingivitis. And now, questions about how often we really need to get dental X-rayshave made the news. The bottom line is that, clinically, these are complex issues that can’t easily be reduced to a simple soundbite.

Maybe it’s time to take a step back and talk about something we can all agree on – toothbrushing.

As a dentist, educator and clinical researcher (an academic dentist sounds so, well, dismissive), I was involved in a very small study, conducted in India, that examined whether taking a smart phone video selfie might help people learn to brush their teeth in a more effective manner. Well, can it help? Short answer: Maybe. Longer answer: It’s complicated, too.

A little selfie-consciousness may be good

Our recent study was conducted by three dentists from India, another researcher from the United States and me. We examined the feasibility of using smart phone video “selfies” to help improve toothbrushing technique.

We conducted a small proof-of-concept study, to determine whether toothbrushing with selfie-taking is worth studying further. As part of the study, Indian dental students were given a one-time toothbrushing training session. Then over two weeks, they recorded – on their phones in the privacy of their own home – five toothbrushing selfies.

Later, the dentist researchers from India reviewed and characterized the selfies. With further analyses from my US colleague, we found some changes and variation over time in the quality and accuracy of toothbrushing.

These changes may suggest that participants were trying to create a new habit, trying to change their behavior, almost as if, while taking the selfie, someone was watching them.

The thought was that by using selfies, participants were more self-conscious about changing their ingrained toothbrushing approach and so may have been better able to “override” their habitual way of brushing. Also, the participants may have had more fun or been more curious about doing a sometimes mundane task.

Habits are hard to change. One needs to overcome “muscle memory” to establish a new behavior. So relearning or retraining, just as with any sports-related skill, may be a gradual process, one prone to trial, error, forgetting and relapse. Some of our data might generally support this. But, based on our pilot study, it seems like adding the selfie to the mix could help people learn, well, new tricks.

Why toothbrushing matters

Why bother brushing our teeth? Oral health is a significant part of overall health. Oral hygiene such as tooth-brushing and flossing, physically cleaning between teeth, can help prevent gum disease and, to a degree, perhaps tooth decay. Cavities can occur between your teeth, where food particles and bacterial debris can linger because a toothbrush often can’t reach into these areas. Your dentist takes X-rays, also known as bite wings, in part to look for tooth decay in these areas. Tooth loss, especially of ones seen when smiling and talking, can lead to a lowered self-esteem and feeling self-conscious in social situations.

Tooth loss can also lead to poor physical health. For example, it can encourage a “softer” diet with fewer fruits, nuts and vegetables. Such food intake can promote a host of diseases and conditions, including weight gain, diabetes and heart disease. And of course, there’s tooth pain, which can be exquisite.

Effective toothbrushing can remove bacteria and organic debris known as dental plaque. Brushing with toothpaste also helps deliver topical fluoride to the teeth, which helps arrest and even reverse early forms of tooth decay.

Persons with risk factors for tooth decay, such as those who consume high levels of processed sugars, do not drink fluoridated water, have infrequent dental visits and have poor toothbrushing habits (lower skill level and less frequent brushing), may benefit from learning more effective oral hygiene techniques.

Having a lower income is associated with many of these risk factors, but most people – regardless of income – can probably improve their oral hygiene skills. And, over the long haul, this could help people keep more teeth and have better oral health.

It’s most important to brush your teeth at night, when your salivary flow goes down. Salivary flow helps buffer the acidic content in your mouth. If you have food particles in your mouth, then certain bacteria use these sugars (almost any carbohydrate) to grow and then give off a form of acid as a byproduct. And it’s this acid that causes tooth decay.

The same goes for kids. Ideally, brush their teeth after breakfast and at night before bed. Most kids can’t brush well until around the age where they can tie their shoes, so an adult will usually do a better job up to that point.

How should you brush? Sometimes people hear different advice from different dentists or hygienists. There is really no “one size fits all” approach, but there are key themes to effective tooth-brushing.

With a soft toothbrush, use gentle, small, circular motions on each tooth, and (using a two-finger “pencil grip” – not too much force) aim the bristles gently at a 45-degree angle where the tooth meets the gum tissue. Pay attention to all tooth surfaces, including the cheek side, the tongue side and the biting surface of each tooth.

Share your selfie – with your dentist or hygienist.

childdental

While ours is very a preliminary study, it opens a door.

But keep in mind, it’s not just the taking of the selfie alone. You will need to review it with your dentist or dental hygienist to get tips on how to improve and on the most important things to work on. Over time, this new, more effective brushing style could become your default habit. But then, you may need another selfie every so often, to make sure that you’re not slipping back into old habits.

An application of the toothbrushing selfie is that technology could be used to evaluate, monitor and permit providers to give real-time, convenient oral hygiene feedback to people across periods of time. This can help put a greater emphasis on prevention, which, at a minimum, should promote good dental checkups and could help keep costs down.

Another application is to remotely screen any number of children in rural areas. A five-second selfie of all the teeth, when reviewed by a dentist, could help identify those who need more immediate or even urgent dental intervention.

Future studies could allow individuals to review their own toothbrushing and critique themselves, and providers could “chime in” with positive comments and suggestions at regular intervals. This could help us understand how behavior change works and what approaches work best for whom.

There are a number of possible applications. The caveat, however, is that confidentiality and legal concerns would have to be ironed out first.

But, again, this was just an initial study, a first step. We established that people could take selfies at home and that we could and later analyze how well they brushed.

That gives us dentists something to smile about.

by Lance Vernon
Senior instructor, Case Western Reserve University

Cross-posted from The Conversation

Hidden Tooth Infections Boost Heart Disease Risk

Could an undetected infection at the root of a tooth be putting you at risk of heart disease? A Finnish study suggests it may.

“Acute coronary syndrome is 2.7 times more common among patients with untreated teeth in need of root canal treatment than among patients without this issue,” says researcher John Liljestrand.

Infection of the root of a tooth is most often caused by tooth decay.

The study included 508 Finnish patients with a mean age of 62 who were experiencing heart symptoms at the time of the study.

The coronary arteries of the patients were examined using angiography, and 36 percent of them were found to be suffering from stable coronary artery disease, 33 percent were undergoing acute coronary syndrome, and 31 percent did not suffer from coronary artery disease to a significant degree.

Their teeth were examined using panoramic tomography of the teeth and jaws. As many as 58 percent were found to be suffering from one or more inflammatory lesions.

The researchers also discovered that dental root tip infections were connected with a high level of serum antibodies related to the bacteria that cause such infections. This shows that oral infections affect other parts of the body as well.

Gum disease, such as periodontitis, is regarded as an independent risk factor for coronary artery disease and diabetes. Infections of root tips have been studied relatively little in this context, even though they appear to be connected with low-grade inflammation as well.

Cardiovascular diseases cause more than 30 percent of deaths globally. They can be prevented by a healthy diet, weight control, exercise and not smoking. With regard to the health of the heart, measures should be taken to prevent or treat oral infections, as they are very common and often asymptomatic. Root canal treatment of an infected tooth may reduce the risk of heart disease, but the researchers note that more research is needed.

Sealants are a Proven and Effective Therapy for Preventing Cavities in Children and Teens

Study: Sealants may reduce caries by up to 80%

By Tony Edwards, Editor in Chief, www.drbicuspid.com

August 5, 2016 — Sealants may reduce carious lesions on the occlusal surfaces of permanent molars by up to 80%, according to a study jointly published by the ADA and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD).

The authors of the review, hailing from multiple dental schools, organizations, and institutes, sought to summarize the available evidence regarding the effectiveness of dental sealants for preventing pit-and-fissure occlusal caries in primary and permanent molars on children, adolescents, and adults to develop a joint evidence-based clinical practice guideline (Journal of the American Dental Association, August 2016, Vol. 147:8, pp. 631-645).

“Sealants are a proven and effective therapy for preventing cavities in children and teens,” stated lead author Timothy Wright, DDS, in a release from the ADA and AAPD. “The joint report reaffirms that sealants should be a routine part of cavity prevention, as children with sealants are up to 80% less prone to cavities compared to those without them.”

Caries prevalence

In the U.S., nearly a quarter of children and more than half of adolescents have caries in their permanent teeth, according to data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2011-2012. Pits and fissures on occlusal surfaces, especially those on permanent molars, increase the risk of these patients developing carious lesions, the authors noted.

“The joint report reaffirms that sealants should be a routine part of cavity prevention.”
— Timothy Wright, DDS, lead study author

The researchers started with more than 2,800 published studies from 1976 through 2016 for their systemic review and reduced the number to 24, including only parallel and split-mouth randomized controlled trials with at least two years of follow-up. They included studies whose authors reported sealant-effectiveness data compared with a control without sealants, fluoride varnishes, or other head-to-head comparisons.

In comparing sealant use versus nonuse, the researchers reviewed nine studies with a total of 3,542 participants. They found that those who received sealants reduced their risk of developing new carious lesions by 76% (95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.19-0.30; p < 0.00001) compared with participants who did not receive sealants.

The researchers also compared sealant use versus fluoride varnishes by reviewing three studies with a total of 1,715 participants. They found that those who received sealants had a 73% reduction in the risk of developing new carious lesions (95% CI: 0.11-0.69; p = 0.006) compared with participants who received fluoride varnishes.

Age of studies

The authors acknowledged several limitations with the review, including an inability to contact primary authors of the studies if there were issues related to risk of bias, as some of the trials were more than 20 years old. They also noted an inability to assess publication bias by means of using a funnel plot owing to the limited number of included studies per outcome.

More research is needed to provide more data about the merits of the different types of sealant materials, the authors noted.

“Available evidence suggests that sealants are effective and safe to prevent or arrest the progression of noncavitated carious lesions compared with a control without sealants or fluoride varnishes,” they concluded.

Survey: More pregnant women in U.S. visiting a dentist

May 16, 2016
By Michelle Manchir

The number of pregnant women in the U.S. going to the dentist has increased 5.5 percent over the last year, according to survey data released in May from Delta Dental Plans Association.

In 2015, 57.5 percent of mothers in the United States reported they visited the dentist during their pregnancy, Delta Dental Plans Association said. The 2016 survey results show that number has increased to 63 percent.

“This is positive news and we’re glad expectant mothers are increasingly visiting the dentist. Oral health issues have a heightened risk of occurring during pregnancy, so being aware and on top of these is crucial,” said Dr. Bill Kohn, Delta Dental Plans Association’s vice president of dental science and policy, in a news release.

Most women who reported seeing a dentist during pregnancy — 37 percent — said it was a routine checkup, while 13 percent said they wanted to address a particular oral health issue and six percent said they wanted to discuss what to expect when it came to oral health while pregnant.

The survey was conducted between Dec. 16, 2015, and Jan. 14, 2016, among a nationally representative group of 1,307 parents of children ages 6-12.

Dental professionals can use ADA’s consumer website, MouthHealthy.org, to help inform patients about what’s safe and healthy for them during pregnancy.

For more information, visit MouthHealthy.org/pregnancy.

In 2015, The Journal of the American Dental Association published research that showed it’s safe for pregnant women to undergo dental treatment with local anesthetics.

The researchers compared the pregnancy outcomes between a group of women exposed to dental treatment with anesthetics and a control group that did not have treatment. The study showed that exposure to dental care and local anesthetics during pregnancy is not associated with increased risk for major medical problems in newborns.

Gum diseases could open the body to a swarm of infections

Mouth microbes may be connected to a variety of illnesses, more and more studies are showing.

Dental care has been disconnected from general health care for many years now, but the more you start to think about it, the stranger it seems. After all, you don’t really separate any other branch of medicine so… why teeth? It all started in the 19th century, following conflicts between surgeons and dentists in England. The conflict was carried on in the United States, after medicine became linked to employer insurance and Medicare. The fissure between medicine and dentistry widened, until it was irreparable. Medicine was split into dental care and all the rest… and has remained so to this day. But is it really fair to exclude dental care from the rest of health care?

When Salomon Amar, a periodontal specialist at Boston University, began exploring links between oral bacteria and heart disease in animal studies in the late 1990s, reactions were unfriendly. Skepticism, in all its forms, was the general response – why would a dentist become involved in heart disease studies? But Amar was’t alone. Wenche Borgnakke, a dental researcher at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, has been making the same case for years, pointing to several published studies. Especially, a study published last year in the journal Medicine highlights that patients on dialysis who received periodontal treatment had an almost 30 percent lower risk of pneumonia and hospitalization from infections. Furthermore, a recent study found that gum problems is associated with a 10% higher mortality.

The scale seems to be tipping the other way, as more and more physicians are noticing connections between oral hygiene and general health. Says Jean Wactawski-Wende, a cancer epidemiologist at the State University of New York at Buffalo:

“The more I work on oral health and cancer, the more I think, ‘Oh my gosh, I’ve got to keep my teeth clean.’ ”

Plaque seems to one of the main culprits, and that makes a lot of sense – after all, it’s a thick layer of bacteria inside your mouth.

“If you do not brush your teeth, it will sit there and accumulate. As that plaque gets thicker and thicker, there is less and less oxygen in the deepest layers,” Borgnakke says. Safely sheltered, the innermost plaque starts to favor anaerobic bacteria, which, when they escape into the blood, can survive in the oxygen-starved nooks and crannies deep inside the body.
While many questions still remain, and the relationship between gum health and overall health remains an open question, there is growing evidence that you gums can open the body to a swarm of infections. The science is not yet clear on it, but in the mean time, it’s better to be safe and sorry. Clean your gums, you may be helping your entire body.

by Mihai Andrei
April 8, 2016

Source: G. Hajishengallis/Nat. Rev. Immuno. 2015

4 Tips for Avoiding Bad Breath When You’re On the Go

Moms, busy professionals, students and many other people are so busy throughout the day that they sometimes forget to take care of their mouths.

You’re so busy throughout the day that you might sometimes forget to take care of your mouth. While this is understandable, the fact that you’re busy shouldn’t mean that you neglect your oral health. When you forget or pass on brushing and flossing, you open to door to bacteria that can lead to bad breath, tooth decay and gum disease. In order to stay healthy, take care of your mouth even when you may not have the time to do so.

People who lead busy lives should remember the following things to help them keep their mouths clean.

1. Carry travel-sized oral health products

Travel-sized oral health products can really come in handy. Many are small enough to easily keep in your car, purse or backpack so that you have them when you need them. If nothing else, try to keep some floss and a small bottle of alcohol-free mouthwash handy. That way, if you have a meal where you get something lodged in your teeth or feel that your breath may have taken a turn for the worse, you can try to take care of it while still out and about. In addition to those two things, you can also carry a travel toothbrush and a small tube of toothpaste. Travel toothbrushes are compact and often have a small case or cover that allows you to carry and use them without any mess.

2. Drink lots of water

Drinking lots of water will help you wash away any food particles and bacteria that collect in your mouth. This will help keep your breath fresh, and because most water in the U.S. is fluoridated, you’ll even be strengthening your teeth. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fluoride added into water helps remineralize teeth and prevent cavities. For this reason, it has been added to water supplies for over 70 years. By drinking lots of water and carrying a refillable water bottle, you’ll be able to help keep your teeth healthy.

3. Stay away from certain foods and drinks

Sugary foods and drinks should be avoided. When sugary foods are eaten, bacteria in the mouth interact with the sugar and leave behind an acid that can attack your teeth. This leads to cavities and tooth decay. Starchy foods high in refined carbohydrates, such as fried foods or snacks like potato chips, are no friend to your teeth and can lead to the same result as sugary foods. If you do end up eating these foods, you should make sure to clean your mouth after doing so.

4. Use sugar-free mints, lozenges or gum

Chewing gum or sucking on a mint can help clean your teeth. Gum and mints increase the amount of saliva in your mouth, which will wash away any leftover food or plaque that has collected on your teeth. While any gum or mint will increase the amount of saliva, sugar-fee gum or mints are much better and will help your oral health much more. Try to use products that contain xylitol instead of sugar as this natural alternative to sugar actually fights off the bacteria that cause bad breath and tooth decay.

Worlds first caffeinated toothpaste jolts you awake and prevents cavities

If you find that you simply cannot start your day without a caffeine fix, but can’t stand the aftertaste of coffee, this toothpaste is just the thing for you. Invented by American entrepreneur Dan Meropol, Power Energy Toothpaste is the world’s first caffeinated toothpaste, designed to give people that much needed morning boost as well as keep their teeth squeaky clean.

Meropol, a Brown University graduate, said he was disturbed to learn that only fifty percent of Americans floss daily, and fifty percent brush only once a day. So he was trying to come up with ways to inspire people to take better care of their teeth, when his friend Ian suggested a caffeinated toothpaste.

At first, Meropol figured that a caffeinated toothpaste must already exist, but he was shocked to learn that no one had ever thought of it before. So he decided to run with the idea and started formulating a special blend of his own. He eventually came up with Power Toothpaste, which provides an instant hit of caffeine that’s absorbed through the gums and mouth.

This is supposedly faster than the traditional coffee-through-the-stomach method, taking effect even before you’ve finished brushing. But this also means that the ‘high’ won’t last very long. “I was sleepy again less than an hour after brushing with Power Toothpaste,” wrote Motherboard contributor Rachel Pick, who tried the product first hand.

That’s because the caffeine fix is instant, and it isn’t being absorbed over time like with a cup of coffee. “Power Toothpaste is only meant as a quick jolt to take you out of your morning fog, and in that regard, it works well,” Pick wrote. Which is exactly what Meropol is aiming for – he just wants people to improve their dental care habits, and if a temporary caffeine high will do the trick, so be it. “Too many people aren’t taking care of their teeth, even when they know they should,” he said.

Pick also noted that Power Toothpaste doesn’t contain fluoride, so it technically classifies a cosmetic product rather than a drug. Dentists are apparently okay with this, but they do recommend following it up with a mouthwash that does contain fluoride.

Meropol first shared the toothpaste with his family and friends, and is now ready to bring it to the masses. He started an Indiegogo campaign on January 19, and he’s already raised over $15,000, completing 35 percent of his goal in just three days. Looks like a lot of people are interested in getting a rush while they brush.

Devices Reduce Blood Pressure in Sleep Apnea

January 5, 2016 — Both continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) and mandibular advancement devices (MADs) reduce blood pressure in patients with obstructive sleep apnea, according to a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The meta-analysis found no significant difference between the blood pressure outcomes associated with the two therapies, but CPAP had a considerably higher probability of reducing systolic blood pressure, concluded lead study author Daniel Bratton, PhD, and colleagues (JAMA, December 1, 2015, Vol. 314:21, pp. 2280-2293).

Obstructive sleep apnea occurs in about 2% to 4% of the population in Western countries according to a 2002 study in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine (May 2002, Vol. 165:9, pp. 1217-1239); however, the study authors noted that the prevalence of the condition is on the rise because of increasing obesity in these populations. The condition is associated with oxygen loss and wakefulness from sleep, which can lead to increases in blood pressure and the risk of cardiovascular disease, according to a 2010 study in Nature Reviews Cardiology(December 2010, Vol. 7:12, pp. 677-685).

CPAP versus MADs

Continuous positive airway pressure devices have been shown to be an effective treatment for improving symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea, such as daytime sleepiness. The authors of the current study cited multiple studies that show the device also lowers blood pressure. For patients who are unable to tolerate CPAP, an alternative treatment often used is the mandibular advancement device, which works by protruding the mandible and tongue to keep the airway open during sleep.

In this study, the researchers from the University of Zurich in Switzerland compared CPAP and MAD to see what changes the devices had in the blood pressure of patients with obstructive sleep apnea. The meta-analysis included 51 studies from the databases of Medline, Embase, and the Cochrane Library to the end of August 2015 and included 4,888 patients with obstructive sleep apnea.

The researchers found that both CPAP and MADs were associated with similar reductions in systolic and diastolic blood pressure compared with an inactive treatment.

Survey: Many pregnant women don’t visit the dentist

Theresa Pablos
DrBicuspid.com assistant editor

More than 75% of pregnant women experience an oral health problem, according to a new Cigna survey of pregnant women and new mothers. The survey also found that almost half of the surveyed women did not visit the dentist during pregnancy despite having dental problems.

The researchers cited cost as one of the main reasons why pregnant women do not visit the dentist, and they found that women without insurance were twice as likely as those with insurance to not visit the dentist during pregnancy. However, healthcare professionals may be able to increase the amount of women who prioritize oral health by simply talking to women about the importance of visiting the dentist.

“The dental professional community should continue to advise and emphasize to expectant mothers the importance of practicing good oral hygiene habits at home before and during pregnancy and the need for regular dental checkups,” stated Miles Hall, DDS, Cigna’s chief clinical dental director, in an email interview with DrBicuspid.com.

Pregnant women aren’t told the importance of oral health

It is important for pregnant women to visit the dentist because all infections, including ones in the oral cavity, may impact the health of their baby. In addition, according to the Cigna study, hormonal changes throughout pregnancy can increase the risk for periodontal disease.

“The dental professional community should continue to advise and emphasize to expectant mothers the importance of practicing good oral hygiene habits.”
— Miles Hall, DDS, Cigna’s chief clinical dental director

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that all women, including pregnant women, should be counseled about the importance of oral health.

To see if pregnant women and new mothers knew about the importance of oral health during pregnancy and if they followed through with visiting a dentist, Cigna conducted a survey through M/A/R/C Research. The online survey went out to pregnant women and also women who had babies within the past 12 months.

All the women included in the survey were between the ages of 21 and 45. A total of 801 women were surveyed:

  • 200 pregnant women with dental insurance
  • 200 pregnant women without dental insurance
  • 201 new mothers with dental insurance
  • 200 new mothers without dental insurance.

The survey found that although 76% of pregnant women reported having an oral health problem, including bleeding gums, toothache, and increased tooth sensitivity, only 57% actually visited a dentist during their pregnancy. To help remedy this, the survey authors recommended that healthcare providers, including dentists and hygienists, explain how pregnancy can affect the oral cavity.

[caption id="attachment_113" align="aligncenter" width="600"]oral health survey Data courtesy of the 2015 Cigna survey “Health Smiles For Mom And Baby.”[/caption]

“Explain the connection between oral health and overall wellness before, during, and after pregnancy,” the survey authors wrote. “For pregnant women, any infection, including tooth decay and gum disease, has the added possibility of affecting the baby’s health.”

The study also found that pregnant women who did not have dental insurance were twice as likely to not visit the dentists as those with dental insurance, and 33% of the women skipped a dental visit during pregnancy because of the cost.

“It is important to acknowledge the frequent reasons for avoiding the dentist and offer insight into overcoming potential barriers — such as providing details about what services are covered under a preventive visit and upfront communications about treatment costs for restorative services,” Dr. Hall said. “Help patients determine whether their dental plan has a special program with extra covered services for pregnant women, like additional exams or cleanings.”