Supporting pregnant women and kids’ oral health during National Children’s Dental Health Month
February marks Children’s Dental Health Month. Did you know that tooth decay remains the most common chronic condition of childhood, ahead of asthma and obesity? The impact of this condition — caused by the disease known as “caries” — goes far beyond a cavity. Dental caries can hurt a child’s ability to eat, sleep, and learn. If left untreated, it can set the stage for a lifetime of problems. Fortunately, early prevention can mitigate these harms, and children’s health advocates can champion such efforts even before our children are born.
While often an overlooked aspect of prenatal care, we can help prevent childhood tooth decay by supporting and improving pregnant women’s oral health. Research shows that a mother’s oral health is a good predictor of her child’s oral health. Kids are three times more likely to experience cavities if their moms have high levels of untreated tooth decay.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has affirmed “the safety and importance of oral health care during pregnancy.” Even so, only about four in 10 women know it is safe to get routine dental care when pregnant.
The children’s health advocacy community can give oral health education a boost to help pregnant women and their children. Here are some ways to start:
- Share this infographic on social media, with family and friends, and fellow advocates. Highlighting key information that pregnant women should know about maintaining and improving their oral health and that of their infants, it was created by the American Academy of Pediatrics and Children’s Dental Health Project.
- If you’re a health provider, display the infographic — available in English and Spanish — in your office or clinic. Another option is to simply share it to open a deeper conversation about oral health, including building healthy dental hygiene and nutrition habits for moms and kids.
- Amplify the facts: Dental care throughout pregnancy is both safe and important. Saying those nine words to women of childbearing age can do a lot to raise their awareness.
Tooth decay can have far-reaching consequences on our children, but we can take steps to prevent it. Attending to oral health needs during pregnancy is critical. During Children’s Dental Health Month and throughout the year, we can each play a role in lifting up the importance of oral health among pregnant women. By doing so, we’ll help more kids have strong start toward reaching their full potential.
Meg Booth is executive director of the Children’s Dental Health Project, a policy institute in Washington, DC. Learn more at www.cdhp.org.