The Children’s Dental Health Project (CDHP) will administer a $1 million grant received by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) to improve the oral health of pregnant women and young children, including those in Early Head Start, WID, and other maternal and child health populations. The grant, “Improving Perinatal Oral Health,” was awarded to the AAPD by the federal Maternal and Child Health Bureau through its Partnership to Promote Maternal and Child Health program.
“Pregnant women, new mothers, and infants are not getting the oral health care they need,” said CHDP Founding Director Burton L. Edelstein, DDS, MPH. “This grant will help expand the availability of prenatal and infant oral health care and raise public awareness of the issue while promoting the values of other programs such as Head Start.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Pregnancy Risk Assessment Moni-toring System revealed that “most mothers did not go for dental care during their pregnancy” and “among those who reported having [dental] problems, one-half did not get dental care.” In addition, dentists are reportedly reluctant to provide care to pregnant women because of concern about possible risks. Pregnant women use dental services at rates half or less than U.S. women generally. Only 21% of children under six obtain a dental visit in a year, while only 4% of children in Medicaid under age three obtain a visit. Visit rates are even lower for socially disadvantaged populations like those who are eligible for federal Head Start and WIC programs.
In 1989 AAPD issued a policy calling for care “that begins ideally with prenatal counseling” and continues with “an initial visit no later than 12 months of age,” yet less than a fourth of dentists act on this policy and the public is unaware of the issue. The U.S. surgeon general in 2000 promoted attention to oral care during pregnancy as a key strategy to improve maternal health, fetal development, infant health, and birth outcomes. Yet Healthy People 2010 targets for improved oral health and improved pregnancy outcomes remain elusive in part because dental providers have not yet addressed the oral health of perinatal populations.
“This award is a great example of our excellent synergy with CDHP,” said John Rutkauskas, DDS, MBA, CAE, Executive Director of AAPD. “Our combined expertise in policy, programming, and clinical practice will be especially effective as we collaborate to improve maternal and child oral health.”
“Funding for this project highlights the federal government’s recognition of oral health care as vital to overall health,” added Dr. Edelstein. “And we are pleased to announce that Mary Foley, former State Dental Director for Massachusetts, has signed on to administer the program."