The Institute for Rural Health (IRH) at Western Kentucky University is collaborating with Fairview Community Health Center to offer a new Prenatal Dental Program.
The IRH’s Mobile Dental Unit will initially visit Fairview Community Health Center once each month to provide preventive dental services. The IRH will offer oral hygiene education/instruction, dental exams, and dental cleanings to second trimester pregnant patients of the center.
Among many other systemic conditions, the presence of periodontal disease has been linked to preterm low birth weight (PLBW) in pregnant women, according to IRH Dental Director Daniel Carter.
“The pathway in which periodontal disease causes PLBW is fairly complex, but essentially is due to the presence of inflammation associated with periodontal disease,” Dr. Carter said. “The goal of providing preventive services to pregnant women with periodontal disease is to eliminate the inflammation present in the oral cavity therefore increasing the chances that the baby will be carried to full term and will be of adequate weight.”
The second trimester is generally considered the best time to do elective dental treatment during pregnancy. The majority of fetal organ development occurs during the first trimester, therefore dental work is postponed (unless urgent) until later. During the third trimester, the fetus is growing quite large and can cause the mother discomfort when lying back in the dental chair.
“During the second trimester most organ development is complete and the fetus is beginning to grow yet is not quite big enough to cause severe discomfort when the mother is supine,” he said.
IRH staff will also take this opportunity to provide oral health education to the mother-to-be regarding oral care for herself as well as her child.
Early Childhood Caries (ECC) is a condition found in a large number of children in which most, if not all, of the child’s teeth are severely decayed. ECC usually requires an expensive trip to the operating room (with the associated dangers of general anesthesia) to correct.
“The most common cause of ECC is the constant exposure of the child’s teeth to sugar, usually via juice, soda, or milk in the child’s bottle all day and at night in the crib, which is why it is also called Baby Bottle Tooth Decay,” Dr. Carter said. “Generally speaking, with proper education and implementation, ECC is a completely avoidable condition.”