, Volume 10, Issue 1 Supplement, pp 169-174,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Oral Health in Women During Preconception and Pregnancy: Implications for Birth Outcomes and Infant Oral Health

Abstract

The mouth is an obvious portal of entry to the body, and oral health reflects and influences general health and well being. Maternal oral health has significant implications for birth outcomes and infant oral health. Maternal periodontal disease, that is, a chronic infection of the gingiva and supporting tooth structures, has been associated with preterm birth, development of preeclampsia, and delivery of a small-for-gestational age infant. Maternal oral flora is transmitted to the newborn infant, and increased cariogenic flora in the mother predisposes the infant to the development of caries. It is intriguing to consider preconception, pregnancy, or intrapartum treatment of oral health conditions as a mechanism to improve women's oral and general health, pregnancy outcomes, and their children's dental health. However, given the relationship between oral health and general health, oral health care should be a goal in its own right for all individuals. Regardless of the potential for improved oral health to improve pregnancy outcomes, public policies that support comprehensive dental services for vulnerable women of childbearing age should be expanded so that their own oral and general health is safeguarded and their children's risk of caries is reduced. Oral health promotion should include education of women and their health care providers ways to prevent oral disease from occurring, and referral for dental services when disease is present.