The West Virginia Oral Health Coalition recognizes and advocates that good health of a mother is essential to the health and development of a child. An essential part of basic overall health is ensuring good oral health of a mother. This is a cost effective strategy to ensure that newborns and children under the age of two start life on a healthy course. Providing oral health care to a mother will both potentially keep her healthier and improve the health status of the next generation of West Virginians.

Pregnant women with oral health disease have an increased risk of having a preterm, low birth weight baby (up to 18% of preterm births can be attributed to periodontal disease). Medical expenses for an average preterm infant are about $54,000 compared to just $4,000 for a healthy newborn.

Research has exhibited an association between periodontal disease in pregnant women and adverse birth outcomes, such as low birth weight, preterm birth, preeclampsia and gestational diabetes. Furthermore, scientific literature confirms that maintaining good oral health prior to and during pregnancy remains a key factor in achieving overall health and well-being for women and their infants.

Cavity causing bacteria is transmitted from primary caregivers to their children and studies demonstrate that maternal untreated cavity increases the odds of children’s caries experience.

Some West Virginia dentists are reluctant to treat oral health disease in pregnant women because they believe that the risk of treating the patient is higher than the risk of not treating the patient.

Providing pregnant women with oral health care, and educating them about preventing and treating dental caries is critical, both for women’s own oral health and for the future oral health of their children.

Promoting comprehensive perinatal oral health care is an optimal approach for preventing early childhood caries.

Providing a comprehensive dental benefit is essential to facilitate changes in women’s oral health behavior during the perinatal period, with improvements in oral health outcomes and cost saving anticipated.

Dentists need to be willing to see and treat pregnant women who need preventive dental care and treatment of oral health disease.