Aim : To understand the oral health related knowledge, perceptions and habits of pregnant women in tertiary care hospital at Rawalpindi, Pakistan.
Background: Recently many studies have linked poor oral health during pregnancy (periodontitis) to adverse pregnancy outcomes (preterm birth, low birth weight babies and preeclampsia).Moreover, research shows that active carious lesions in pregnant women increase the risk of early childhood caries in their child. Furthermore, child’s oral hygiene status depends on maternal oral health related knowledge, attitude and practices. Studies indicate that approximately 75% of pregnant women are affected by gingivitis, one in four develops dental caries and one in three suffers from periodontitis during pregnancy. In Pakistan, preterm birth is recorded as 748100 which is the fourth highest rate of preterm birth reported annually in the world (WHO, 2012). Presently most of the research involving oral health in Pakistan has focused on children, adults or older people. While pregnant women suffer from poor oral health only two studies have explored the oral health related knowledge, perceptions and habits of this particular population.
Material and Methods: A cross sectional study was conducted to understand the oral health related knowledge, perceptions and habits of pregnant women aged 18 and above at railway hospital during their routine antenatal visits. An interview administered questionnaire survey was carried out to collect data. A pre validated questionnaire from a published article in Australian Dental Journal titled ‘The oral health status, practices and knowledge of pregnant women in south-western Sydney’ was modified and used. Data was analyzed using both descriptive and inferential analysis (chi square test).
Results: 260 women participated in the study. The overall knowledge score was 57%. Almost 40% of women were suffering from some oral health problem, however, only 25% of them consulted a dentist and 36% informed their gynecologists about the oral health problem. Moreover, 15% women were informed by gynecologists about the importance of oral health care during pregnancy. Dental costs, misconception about fetal harm and low priority to oral health during pregnancy were the most common barriers reported in accessing dental care during pregnancy. Oral hygiene practices were good in terms of brushing and use of fluoridated tooth paste, however, less than one third of the pregnant women visited a dentist in the last six months and has used dental floss or mouth rinse. Majority of the participants showed interest in the new oral health care services provided by gynecologists during pregnancy. The chi square test showed statistically significant correlation of dental visits in the last 6 months with oral health status and information received about oral health care during pregnancy.
Conclusion: The low uptake of dental services by participants in this study and the reasonable number of oral health problems reported during pregnancy highlights the significance of developing of evidence based strategies and educational programs on the importance of oral health for pregnant women. Moreover, adopting a multidimensional approach by involving all antenatal care providers, dentists and pregnant women will help to address the issue more effectively.