Aims and objectives: The aim of this paper is to examine current evidence supporting the promotion of oral health during pregnancy and proffer aspects of a potential role for Australian midwives.
Background: Research continues to show that poor oral health during pregnancy can have an impact on the health outcomes of the mother and baby. Poor maternal oral health increases the chances of infants developing early caries and is strongly associated with adverse pregnancy outcomes such as preterm and low birth-weight babies. Unfortunately in Australia, no preventive strategies exist to maintain the oral health of pregnant women.
Design: Systematic review.
Method: This review examines all literature on oral health during pregnancy published to date in the English language and focuses on whether preventive oral health strategies during the prenatal period are warranted in Australia and if so, how they could be provided.
Results: Maintaining oral health is important during pregnancy and many developed countries have implemented preventive strategies to address this issue using non-dental professionals such as prenatal care providers. However, despite the positive international evidence, limited importance is being given to the oral health of pregnant women in Australia. It is also evident that the unique potential of prenatal care providers such as midwives to assess and improve maternal oral heath is not being thoroughly utilised. Compounding the issue in Australia, especially for pregnant women from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds, is the limited access to public dental services and the high cost of private dental treatment.
Conclusion: Promoting and maintaining oral health during pregnancy is crucial, and preventive prenatal oral health services are needed in Australia to achieve this.
Relevance to clinical practice: Midwives have an excellent opportunity to offer preventive oral health services by providing oral health assessments, education and referrals for pregnant women attending antenatal clinics.
© 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.