Improving Oral Health Among Vulnerable Pregnant Women
Special Projects Fund
September 21, 2018
A lack of needed dental care during pregnancy can lead to oral and systemic infections and pain, negatively affecting the health of both pregnant women and their newborns.
In New York State, Medicaid coverage pays for general and specialty dental care for adults and has expanded to cover more women during pregnancy. However, despite having this coverage, only 47% of women receiving Medicaid in New York State were seen by a dentist during pregnancy, compared with 69% of women not receiving Medicaid. In New York City, one in five women receiving Medicaid, one in five low-income women, one in five black women, and one in eight Hispanic women report that they have never had their teeth cleaned. In 2018, NYHealth awarded New York University College of Dentistry (NYUCD) a grant to address oral health deficiencies among low-income, vulnerable pregnant women.
Under this grant, NYUCD leveraged its professional partnership with Bellevue Hospital to increase use of dental care among vulnerable pregnant women. NYUCD established an on-site dental clinic, staffed by NYUCD dentists, to provide routine, preventive dental care within Bellevue’s OB-GYN clinic. NYUCD trained OB-GYN providers and staff on the need for dental screening and referrals for prenatal patients, as well as trained the dental providers on how to safely, expeditiously, and effectively provide dental care for pregnant women. NYUCD also worked to educate prenatal patients on the importance of oral health during pregnancy, coupled with raising awareness of available low-cost and/or Medicaid-supported dental care. As part of the project, a patient navigator for prenatal patients at the clinic facilitated dental care referrals to NYUCD for more complicated cases. NYUCD aims to create a replicable statewide model for other interested dental schools and OB-GYNs in New York State and beyond.