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Thursday, December 9, 2021

A New Act Providing For Dental Health Care Of Pregnant And Postpartum Women

On Wednesday, U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow, Ben Cardin, and Cory Booker launched a new act to improve oral health care by expanding dental coverage for women during their pregnancy and also, after delivery.

A New Act Providing For Dental Health Care Of Pregnant And Postpartum Women

The new bill, called the ‘Oral Health for Moms Act’ would necessitate the Children’s Health Insurance Program and Medicaid to entail dental health care for pregnant and postpartum women, Sen. Stabenow said. 

A New Act Providing For Dental Health Care Of Pregnant And Postpartum Women

Good oral health and proper dental care are crucial not only to a healthy pregnancy, but also to give newborns a strong head start. As oral bacteria may be transferred from a mother to a baby after birth, good oral health during pregnancy is expected to affect a baby’s future dental health. If the mother did not obtain quality dental care during pregnancy, the kids are three times more likely to develop dental disease.

Expectant mothers having issues with their teeth or gums are at a higher risk for other serious secondary health complications such as gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, preterm birth, depression, and low birth weight. This is why dental care is a critical mandate of prenatal care. 

Maureen G. Phipps (MD, MPH), who is the Chief Executive Officer of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) stated, “Oral health is connected to physical and mental health. It is very important throughout the lifespan of an individual. Physiologic changes may impact oral health more, during pregnancy”.

In-state Medicaid programs, dental coverage related to pregnancy is optional. This implies that dental care is mostly unaffordable for many expectant women in the country. This is especially true for minorities such as Hispanic, Black, and Indigenous women. Senator Stabenow affirmed that the Oral Health for Moms Act would make dental care more within their means and address such disparities in the US.

Stabenow also stated that the act would make oral health services a vital health benefit. Pregnant and postpartum women who were obtaining their insurance coverage through health insurance marketplaces were eligible for dental care through this bill. 

Senator Booker agreed that oral health was a fundamental part of a pregnant woman’s overall well-being. He said. “Maternal mortality is a serious problem in America that puts pregnant women, particularly Indigenous and Black women, at risk. It is important that as we work to tackle this issue, we are also dealing with the need to expand access to oral health care for pregnant and post-partum women. This legislation takes a crucial step in addressing the expansion of access that expectant mothers have to oral health care.”

Senator Cardin said that the U.S. has made huge strides in developing and extending oral health coverage for young children. But the country must start to provide this level of coverage to pregnant and postpartum women. He added, saying “We are aware that there is no health without oral health. We also know that oral health problems and tooth decay affect mothers and families in communities that are at risk, disproportionately. The Oral Health for Moms Act addresses discrepancies in oral health care by enhancing the insurance coverage to pregnant women and moms nationwide.”

Senator Stabenow announced that the Oral Health for Moms Act would cover both diagnostic and preventative care, basic and major dental services, and another emergency dental care for pregnant and postpartum women who are enrolled in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. 

The act would also issue grants to federally qualified health centers for the provision of dental services. Training grants are also planned to be provided under this bill, to incorporate dental care into maternal health settings. Thus, it also supports education and training for clinicians in the dental field.

Families USA, Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs, Community Catalyst, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, March of Dimes, First Focus Campaign for Children are all in support of the bill.

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