Dental Care-Seeking and Information Acquisition During Pregnancy: A Qualitative Study

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019 Jul 23;16(14):2621. doi: 10.3390/ijerph16142621.


Background: Pregnant women are at risk of oral health problems. This qualitative study aims to understand dental care-seeking behaviours of pregnant women and their oral health-related information acquisition, to identify barriers to and motivators for, dental visits, and further explore their expectations and possible strategies to improve oral health care during pregnancy.

Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 30 pregnant women (after 32 gestational weeks) enrolled in the antenatal care programme in a public hospital in Hong Kong. Two main areas of interest were probed: Dental care-seeking behaviour and oral health information acquisition. Their expectations and suggestions on oral health care service for pregnant women were also explored. An inductive thematic approach was adopted to analyse the data.

Results: Pregnant women's dental care-seeking behaviour was deterred by some internal factors, such as misunderstandings on oral health, and priority on other issues over oral health. External factors such as inconvenient access to dental service during pregnancy also affected their care-seeking behaviours. Oral health information was passively absorbed by pregnant women through mass media and the social environment, which sometimes led to confusion. Oral health information acquisition from antenatal institutions and care providers was rare. Greater attention was paid to dental visit when they obtained proper information from previous dental visit experience or family members. A potential strategy to improve oral health care suggested by the interviewees is to develop a health care system strengthened by inter-professional (antenatal-dental) collaboration. Efficient oral health information delivery, convenient access to dental service, and improved 'quality' of dental care targeting the needs of pregnant women were identified as possible approaches to improve dental care for this population.

Conclusion: Dental care-seeking behaviour during pregnancy was altered by various internal and external factors. A lack of, or conflict between, information sources result in confusion that can restrict utilisation of dental service. Integrating dental care into antenatal service would be a viable way to improve dental service utilisation.

Keywords: antenatal care; dental care seeking; information behaviour; oral health; pregnancy; qualitative methods.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Dental Care*
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Hong Kong
  • Humans
  • Information Seeking Behavior*
  • Oral Health
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnant Women / psychology*
  • Prenatal Care*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Young Adult