New oral health program for expectant mothers an Australia first

Midwives will be checking her teeth.

Midwives will play a vital role in improving the oral health of pregnant women, thanks to an innovative on-line education program developed by The Centre for Applied Nursing Research and Sydney Dental Hospital.

The Centre and the Dental Hospital, part of Sydney Local Health Network, developed the program as part of a new Midwifery led oral health initiative that incorporates oral health guidelines into normal midwifery practice.

Senior Research Fellow and Program Leader, Dr Ajesh George, said research showed that hormonal changes in pregnant women made them particularly susceptible to poor oral health.

“Poor oral health in pregnant women can contribute to lower birth weight and premature births and increased the risk of early dental decay in children,” Dr George said.

“Unfortunately many pregnant women are unaware of the implications of poor oral health for themselves, their pregnancy, and their unborn child and seldom seek dental care during pregnancy.”

“Preliminary research has found that more than half the pregnant women in south western Sydney had dental problems and less than a third had visited a dentist in the past six months.

“Further, less than 10 per cent of the women had received any information about oral health care during pregnancy. Experts now recommend that all prenatal care providers play an active role in promoting oral health among pregnant women,” he said.

The program, which has been endorsed by the Australian College of Midwives, offers 16 Continuing Professional Development points for midwives across Australia. It incorporates an online education program consisting of pre-reading material, video and photographs of the dental assessment process and knowledge testing for midwives.

Australian College of Midwives National Spokesperson, Associate Professor Hannah Dahlen, said the program offered an exciting opportunity for midwives.

“Midwives are the lead health professionals caring for childbearing women and, thanks to this program, they can play an important role in ensuring women’s oral health care is made a priority during pregnancy,” Associate Professor Dahlen said.

The program has been supported by grants from the NSW Centre for Oral Health Strategy, the Australian Dental Association (NSW) and UWS.

The program is currently being trialled in south western Sydney, with plans to roll it out across NSW and other states over the next few years.


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  1. It would be a very pleasant change, if this important opportunity to make a massive improvement in oral health of this most important group of fellow humans, was effective not in the traditional mechanistic approach to the resolution of periodontal disease but rather an attempt to educate the simple rationale for conscientious brushing to deliver the desired benefit. Recognition of horrific failure rates must motivate the production of resources to allow dedicated midwives to achieve success in this crucial area of health.


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