June JADA finds pregnant women who experience food insecurity exhibit worse oral health, lack access to care

Interventions are important to promoting greater health equity

Interventions that can reduce food insecurity, increase oral health care access and improve oral health among pregnant women are important steps in promoting greater health equity, according to a study published in the June issue of The Journal of the American Dental Association .

The cover story, "Food Insecurity and Oral Health Care Experiences During Pregnancy: Findings from the Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System," looked at 2016-19 data from the Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System to examine the association between food insecurity and six indicators of oral health care experiences during pregnancy. Food insecurity, which is the limited or uncertain ability to acquire food that is adequate, nutritious or both, affected about 35 million people in the U.S. in 2019, according to the study.

The authors found food-insecure women reported worse oral health care experiences during pregnancy, including being more likely to need to see a dentist for a problem, going to see a dentist for a problem, not receiving dental prophylaxis, not talking with an oral health care provider about dental health, not knowing it was important to care for teeth, and having unmet oral health care needs.

"It is well established that proper nutrition and oral health are two components of a healthy pregnancy. However, millions of households in the United States are food insecure, and unfortunately that means every year there are women across the country who do not have reliable access to food during their pregnancy," said Alexander Testa, Ph.D., corresponding author of the study and assistant professor in the University of Texas at San Antonio department of criminology and criminal justice. "Our study aimed to understand how food-insecure pregnant women might also face challenges related to oral health care. Our findings indicate that food-insecure women have worse oral health and often cannot get dental care they need during pregnancy. This suggests that these women are doubly burdened, by potentially lacking proper nutrition and proper oral health care services during pregnancy."

Other articles in the June issue of JADA discuss dental safety net providers' concerns during the first year of COVID-19 ,  root resorption of root-filled and vital teeth , and factors affecting antibiotic prophylaxis use .

Every month, JADA articles are published online at in advance of the print publication.

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