Objectives: The purpose of this study was to examine the impact of oral health knowledge and barriers on oral health behaviors and utilization of dental care during pregnancy.
Methods: The sample consisted of 243 socioeconomically diverse pregnant women. Participants completed an anonymous questionnaire while in the waiting room of a university-affiliated prenatal care center. As an incentive, participants received oral hygiene supplies. This study was approved by our Institutional Review Board.
Results: Many participants lacked basic information concerning a variety of oral health topics, such as the link between oral and systemic health, the transmission of caries, and the prevention of oral health problems. Oral health knowledge was associated with greater oral health self-efficacy and flossing frequency, and less time since the last dental visit. One-third of participants visited the dentist during their current pregnancy; most commonly for routine care. Compared to those who did not receive care during pregnancy, women who visited the dentist during pregnancy were significantly more likely to utilize routine dental care before pregnancy, and they reported greater oral health self-efficacy and flossing frequency, and fewer barriers to care. The most common barriers reported among all participants were fear of dental care (even when not pregnant), concerns about safety and cost, lack of dental insurance, and trouble finding a dentist.
Conclusions: The results suggest that greater oral health knowledge and fewer barriers to care are associated with better oral health practices and utilization of care during pregnancy. Studies are needed to determine whether efforts to improve education and access to care before pregnancy will result in improved hygiene and utilization during pregnancy.
This research was supported in part by Stony Brook’s Summer Research Fellowship Program.
Keywords: Access and Oral hygiene
See more of: Behavioral, Epidemiologic, and Health Services Research