Background: Oral health behavior and attitudes of pregnant women in low-income countries are rarely examined, yet should be considered when designing preventative or therapeutic studies to reduce burden of oral diseases. We aimed to understand dental care-seeking behavior, as well as oral health knowledge and attitudes of oral health among pregnant women in rural Nepal.
Methods: Semi-structured in-depth interviews (n = 16) and focus group discussions (3 groups, n = 23) were conducted among pregnant and recently-delivered women in Sarlahi, Nepal. Transcripts were translated from the local language to English then analyzed using a hybrid approach to thematic coding with Atlas.ti version 7.
Results: Women felt confident describing the signs and symptoms of tooth decay and gum disease, but were not knowledgeable about where to receive care for tooth and/or gum pain and relied heavily on the knowledge of their community. Some women used a toothbrush and toothpaste at least once a day to clean their teeth, but many reported the traditional use of a branch of a local shrub or tree as their teeth cleaning instrument. Women suggested a willingness to consider using an oral rinse throughout pregnancy, perceiving that it might have a positive impact on infant health.
Conclusions: Future studies should focus on providing adequate and sustainable resources for pregnant women in Nepal and other low income settings to engage in good oral health behaviors (possibly supported through community-based workers), to maintain dental hygiene, and to access qualified dentists as a means of improving their oral health.
Keywords: Dental care seeking behavior; Nepal; Oral health; Oral health behaviors; Periodontal disease; Pregnancy.