Poor oral hygiene has links to Ohio’s high infant-mortality rate
Recently, the OHIO Depart- ment of Health announced a three-year partnership to coordinate efforts to address health disparities in infant-mortality levels between minority and white populations.
As a dental hygienist and a dental- hygiene educator, I applaud these efforts, and I write to suggest how oral hygiene services can address this issue.
Research compiled over a number of years has shown that women lacking oral health care can have ill effects on fetal development, leading to poor birth outcomes, and that can affect their child’s future oral health.
There are also connections to pregnancy complications, low birth weights and pre-term births. A dental visit during pregnancy, especially for Medicaid- eligible women, can be a part of the solution to Ohio’s poor infant-mortality ranking.
Other states and insurance companies have established programs to encourage Medicaid recipients to seek oral health care during pregnancy. Currently, Ohio permits one cleaning per year, but it could coordinate a second visit if the pregnancy occurs after the permitted visit, allowing deep cleaning, scaling and root planning and periodontal maintenance, thus reducing the risk of pregnancy gingivitis and the transmission of harmful bacteria to a newborn.
Combined in this effort must be increased reimbursement to dentists to encourage services and an exploration of new billing methodologies. Oral-hygiene services have a track record of success related to total body health and should be explored as a key part of the infant mortality/low birth weight baby solution; Ohio’s dentists and dental hygienists can help solve this problem.
Beth Tronolone, Sylvania
The writer is president of the Ohio Dental Hygienists Association.