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Changing practice to improve the oral health of pregnant women

Neglecting oral health in pregnancy has important health consequences. The Australian-first research of Dr Ajesh George and his team is changing practice and improving outcomes.

Poor oral health in pregnancy is linked to preterm birth, low birth weight and early tooth decay in children, but this important aspect of antenatal care is seldom addressed in Australia.

“We now know that it’s safe to have dental treatment during pregnancy, including cleaning, fillings, extractions and even x-rays. The consensus is that you need to address any dental infection during pregnancy to ensure the best health outcomes for both the mother and the baby,” Dr George says.

Dr George’s research shows less than a third of pregnant women visit a dentist, even if they need to. Even though dental problems are more common in pregnancy, less than 10 per cent of women receive any information about oral healthcare at this time. He has addressed this by developing an education program that is the first of its kind in Australia. The Midwifery Initiated Oral Health (MIOH) program is changing practice by educating midwives in oral health assessment and referral.

As part of the program, Dr George and his team has also developed a series of brochures and a video to promote the importance of perinatal oral health to the public. These resources have been endorsed by NSW Kids and Families and Ministry of Health and are being distributed state-wide.

Read the full article on the WSU web site.

This ground-breaking research brings together the Ingham Institute, Western Sydney University and the Centre for Applied Nursing Research (CANR), University of Sydney and SWSLHD.