Self-reported oral health and dental service utilisation in pregnancy

Objective: Preterm birth (i.e. birth before 37 completed weeks of gestation) accounts for 6-10 % of births. With increasing evidence of an association between preterm birth and periodontal disease, we examined women’s perception of their oral health and utilisation of dental services in pregnancy.

Methods: Nulliparous women attending antenatal clinics were recruited into intervention study of S-ECC prevention. Women also completed a baseline questionnaire on oral health, health care and habits.

Results: Some 649 women were recruited into study, of whom 430 were recruited between 8 and 36 weeks of pregnancy and were used in this analysis. Mean age at enrolment was 25 \xB1 5.8 (SD) years and mean gestation 21 \xB1 5.8 weeks. Thirty-five women (8.1%) subsequently gave birth preterm. Only 17.2 % of women reported bleeding and swollen gums before pregnancy, but this increased to 45.5% in pregnancy, while 9.5% women reported worsening of bleeding during pregnancy. Perception of gingival bleeding was significantly associated with perception of oral health rated as excellent to poor. However, 23.7% of women with bleeding gums reported their oral health as excellent. At the time of enrolment 13.2% had visited a dentist during their pregnancy. There were no differences in dental visiting between women with preterm and term birth, however there were significant differences (Chi-square p = 0.016) as a primary reason for the visit and treatment they received.

Conclusions: Self-reported bleeding gums were reported by many pregnant women but was not always recognised as sign of poor oral health. Most pregnant women had not received dental care during pregnancy. Self-assessment of oral health and self-initiation of dental care would be problematic for interventions aimed at oral health and the subsequent outcomes of pregnancy.

Presented at the 84th General Session and Exhibition of the IADR, 28 June – 1 July 2006, Brisbane Australia

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