Are you pregnant, poor and need to see a dentist? Well, God help you according to a recent article in the New York Times by Catherine Saint Louis.

Hats off to Ms. Saint Louis for her expose of a quiet little secret that has existed for decades: pregnant women with dental problems have a very challenging time being seen and it’s shameful.

Luatany Caseres, was a 34 year old factory worker in Durham, North Carolina who had an abscess so bad that her “swollen cheek bulged as if a lollipop were stuck there.” Caseres was in her second trimester and was refused treatment three times because of her pregnant condition. Luckily, she was finally seen by a fourth-year dental student was trained at a new prenatal program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The article goes on to quote an alarming statistic of 77% of pregnant women in the U.S. who were denied dental care.  Hopefully these statistics will land on the desk of the U.S. Secretary of Health, Kathleen Sebellius, but I won’t hold my breath waiting. While it’s nice to quote statistics and point fingers of blame and shame, there is a larger issue that needs to be addressed which of course involves money.  Present Medicaid policy dictates that preventive care (fillings and cleanings) are only provided to patients until the age of 21 and will only pay for extractions for anyone older. Until that policy changes, the refusal of dental treatment for pregnant women will NOT go away.

Dental care in pregnant women is such an important issue that it was discussed in Chapter 5 of The Smart Mother’s Guide to a Better Pregnancy.

Yes, there are dentists who are initially uncomfortable taking care of a pregnant woman but once the obstetrician gives them additional information regarding “do’s and don’ts,” most  dentists in my experience will accommodate the patient.

Tomorrow, in Part 2, I will discuss the “do’s and don’ts” of dental care for pregnant women.  I strongly encourage all pregnant moms to read Catherine Saint Louis’s New York Times’ article. Information is power.