Dental team and nurse-midwives focus on oral health
While pregnancy can bring a lot of excitement, it can also bring a host of added tasks. Taking care of teeth can get lost in the shuffle. A School of Dental Medicine team met with nurse-midwifery students and faculty recently to focus on the importance of prenatal oral health care.
“The oral health of a pregnant woman has significant impact on the health of her baby,” said Dr. Robert Carter, director of the School of Dental Medicine’s general practice residency (GPR) program. “A high rate of caries (cavities) in the mother can result in a higher level of caries causing bacteria in the infant.”
Dr. Pamela Reis, a faculty member in the nurse-midwifery education program at the ECU College of Nursing, approached Carter about providing instruction in oral health screening and examination for students in the Introduction to Primary Care of Well Women class.
“Similar to nurse-midwifery practice, dental medicine strongly promotes preventive health practices,” said Reis. “Nurse-midwives provide primary care services to women throughout the lifespan. Oral health screening is a critical element of the physical examination.”
Reis added, “Poor oral health can lead to adverse outcomes in individuals with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and other chronic illnesses. Some studies have suggested a link between periodontal disease during pregnancy and preterm birth. It is important for all primary care providers to be able to screen for oral health issues, intervene as appropriate, and recognize conditions that require referral to a dentist.”
A dental team led by Carter met with the midwifery students and faculty in the school’s clinical simulation lab so the group could utilize the lab’s patient simulators called typodonts.
Dental students Ljiljana Karan and Alex Davis, who are 2016-2017 Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation Schweitzer Fellows, spoke with the mid-wives about common oral complications that may be seen in pregnant patients.
As Fellows, Karan and Davis manage ECU’s Prenatal Oral Health Program (pOHP), which focuses on interprofessional oral health care, patient education, and connecting patients with a dental home.
GPR residents Dr. Rebecca Triplet, Dr. Shannon Snipe, and Dr. Kyle Viloria presented on oral health assessment, oral inspection, and oral hygiene instruction.
Carter, Karan, Davis and GPR resident Dr. Ishita Rahman guided the midwifery students and faculty in performing a hands-on oral health assessment on the typodonts to identify problems such as decayed teeth, periodontal disease, oral infection, and gingivitis.
They also demonstrated proper brushing and flossing techniques that nurse-midwives can teach to patients and their families.
“The goal of the presentation was to increase the knowledge of dental problems women can have and how they relate to the dental health of their children,” said Carter. “We also want nurse-midwives to know about the dental school’s pOHP program and how to refer their patients for dental care.”
Reis said the nurse-midwifery students will participate in another activity with the dental medicine residents and students in the spring of 2017. They will work with standardized patients through the ECU Office of Clinical Skills Assessment and Education to conduct a routine oral health exam and identify oral health conditions that deviate from the norm and require referral to a dentist.