Mothers and young children are healthy

% of women who had a preventive dental visit during pregnancy


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Story Behind the Curve

Last updated 1/31/17
By the Division of Maternal and Child Health

Vermont has seen a increase in the number of women who had a preventive dental visit during pregnancy, from 54% in 2004 to 59% in 2013 according to the Pregnancy Risk Factor Surveillance System (PRAMS), although there has been variation in this percentage from year to year.

Additionally, disparities exist among subpopulations:

  • WIC recipients have lower rates of preventive dental visits (40%) than women who do not receive WIC (60%)
  • Vermonters with private health insurance during pregnancy had a higher visit rate (69%) than those with Medicaid (48%).
  • Preventive health visits increase significantly with educational attainment (45% for women with a high school degree compared to 67% of college graduates).

For more detail and background, view the Health Department’s Division of Maternal and Child Health information brief at:

  • Vermont Department of Health │ Oral Health Program
  • Vermont Department of Health │ Maternal and Child Health
  • Vermont Department of Health │ Office of Local Health
  • Vermont Oral Health Coalition
What Works
  • Educate and train obstetricians and dental providers about the importance and safety of oral health care during pregnancy
  • Provide access for pregnant women to dental providers
    • Reduce/eliminate insurance barriers
    • Increase the number of dental providers that accept Medicaid
    • Increase the number of dental providers and across Vermont
  • Educate pregnant women about the importance and safety of oral health care during pregnancy
  • MCH Coordinators work in tangent with co-located public health dental hygienists to assess dental health landscape and share resource availability with health care and community partners
  • Public health dental hygienists (PHDH) provide oral health assessment, screening, education & information to families enrolled in WIC
  • To increase the update of dental visits among pregnant women and young children, MCH Coordinators and PHDHs partner at the District office level provide outreach to:
    • Ob/Gyns regarding: a) the expanded Medicaid benefit for pregnant women; b) Bright Futures guidelines
    • Dentists regarding a) evidence-based oral health practice; b) support for seeing patients beginning at age 1
    • Pediatricians regarding: a) oral health education and referral to a dental home; and 2) fluoride varnish
  • MCH leadership serves on the statewide oral health coalition, with a priority focus on pregnancy
  • Regional MCH coalitions promote oral health messaging
  • Promote the newly passed mid-level dental provider (dental therapists) role in Vermont’s oral health workforce
  • Work collaboratively with the Vermont chapter of ACOG to strengthen its membership and provide training and organizational support to ensure key public health messaging/ content is integrated into clinical services

Similar to statewide efforts, local partners are using data to drive local strategy. For regional data on Maternal and Infant Health indicators, check out our Public Health Data Explorer.

Why Is This Important?

Oral infections can have significant consequences for overall health, a women's pregnancy and her child. Research finds that four in 10 of all pregnant women have tooth decay or gum disease, and that a mother's oral health strongly predicts her child's oral health status. Source: Oral Health & Pregnant Women Resource Center:

Dental care, including X-rays and local anesthesia, is safe during pregnancy. In Vermont, pregnant women who are insured by Medicaid have no dollar limit on covered dental services during pregnancy and up to 60 days after the end of pregnancy.

Notes on Methodology

VT’s relatively small sample sizes often lead to suppressed data or wide confidence intervals, hindering interpretation in subgroup analyses. The Vermont PRAMS dental cleaning question was worded differently for 2004-2008 births than for 2012-2013 births, and was not included for 2009-2011 births.

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