In a 2009 national survey of 351 OB/GYNs, 77% reported that some of their patients had been declined dental services due to pregnancy.1 Additionally, many medical care providers fail to or are unable to accurately check pregnant patients for dental problems and refer them for dental care. At least 40% of pregnant women experience some form of periodontal disease, including gingivitis, periodontitis, or pyogenic granuloma (“pregnancy tumor”).1-3 Additionally, increased carbohydrate consumption and acid exposure secondary to pregnancy related “morning sickness” can increase patients’ susceptibility to dental caries.

It is currently the recommendation of the National Maternal and Child Health Resource center at Georgetown University that pregnant patients or those seeking to become pregnant who have not seen a dentist in at least six months should be referred for dental care4 and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists began advising OB/GYNs to check patients for oral health issues at their first prenatal visit and make the appropriate referrals.4 Furthermore, routine dental care such as dental cleanings and the administration of local anesthetic medication during pregnancy have not been shown to change rates of miscarriage or birth defects.4,5 Dental radiographs are also safe, although it has been suggested they should be limited for use in a dental emergency or if there is a need to diagnose a dental problem and the patient should be appropriately protected with a lead drape.4,5

This course seeks to discuss the high incidence and etiologies of periodontal diseases during pregnancy and to enable dental practitioners to better identify disease and promote optimal oral health in patients before and during pregnancy.