Help Keep Mom Smiling: Cigna Study Finds Majority of Pregnant Women Suffer Oral Health Problems, But 43% Don’t Get Dental Checkups

  • More than a third of expectant mothers haven’t had a preventive dental
    visit in more than a year
  • Oral health hygiene habits improve significantly for participants in
    dental plan maternity benefit programs
  • Physicians have a strong influence on both mother’s and baby’s dental
    health, underscoring the need for more medical and oral health
    integration

BLOOMFIELD, Conn.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Preventive dental checkups are important throughout one’s life, and,
arguably, even more essential during pregnancy. All infections in the
mother, including tooth decay and gum disease, may pose a risk to the
baby’s health as well. However, a national
survey
released today by Cigna (NYSE:CI) finds that 43% of women
don’t go for a dental checkup while expecting even though 76% admit to
suffering from oral health problems during pregnancy, such as bleeding
gums or toothaches.

Hormonal changes during pregnancy can worsen certain oral health
conditions such as gingivitis and more serious gum disease. The
Cigna survey
found that only 55% of women rate their oral health as
very good or excellent during pregnancy, a drop from 63% prepregnancy.
Without a checkup, women might not even be aware of problems beginning
to affect their teeth and gums. More than a third (36%) of expectant
mothers admit that it has been more than a year since their last
preventive dental visit. Cost is the primary reason why pregnant women
say they skip dental checkups, even among those with dental benefits.

Dental
checkups
are so important that most dental benefit plans cover
preventive care visits every six months with no or low out-of-pocket
costs. Some dental benefit plans even have special maternity programs
with additional services like extra cleanings or discounts on oral
health prescriptions,” said Dr. Miles Hall, Cigna’s chief clinical
dental director and licensed dentist.

“Small cavities or early stages of gum disease may not be painful, but
both get worse if left untreated. Regular dental checkups are critical
for identifying and treating problems before they get more complicated
and more expensive to treat – the very situation everyone wants to
avoid,” adds Dr. Hall.

Dental Benefit Plan Maternity Programs

The survey of expecting and new mothers found that those who took
advantage of a dental maternity program through their dental benefit
plan had better oral health habits than those who did not participate or
did not have a program available to them. The survey found that:

  • 62% of women brush their teeth at least twice a day. That percentage
    climbs to 76% for those who are participating or who have participated
    in a dental benefit plan maternity program.
  • 48% of women floss at least once a day. That percentage surges to 81%
    for women who are participating or who have participated in a dental
    benefit plan maternity program.

The survey suggests that these improvements in dental hygiene habits may
be why 74% of women who are participating or have participated in a
dental benefit plan maternity program rate their oral health as very
good or excellent compared to 55% of pregnant women overall.

The Physician’s Influence

Oral health ties to overall wellness, however many medical professionals
don’t include oral health as part of their patient discussions. While
97% of women said that they saw their medical doctor/obstetrician during
their pregnancy as frequently as directed, only 44% said that oral
health was mentioned in those visits. Yet these discussions may have a
significant impact. Compared to other expectant mothers, women whose
doctors talked about their oral health during pregnancy are about twice
as likely to:

  • have a dental checkup while pregnant (77% vs. 41%)
  • read materials about the importance of oral health (87% vs. 42%)

“The number of missed opportunities to discuss oral health as part of
medical checkups for both mother and baby is an eye opener,” said Dr.
Stacie Rivers, Cigna medical director for maternity programs and a board
certified obstetrician and gynecologist. “There is a clear action step
for physicians, and significant gains to be made when there is an
integrated effort to help patients understand the connection between
oral health and overall wellness.”

The effects of the doctor’s influence seems to last beyond delivery —
while only 43% of new mothers have had a dental checkup since giving
birth, that percentage climbs to 63% for women whose doctors discussed
oral health during maternity visits. Postpartum dental visits are also
important, particularly as dental hygiene habits may slip once baby
arrives. More than one-third of new mothers (36%) say they are brushing
and flossing less frequently than before the baby – many blaming lack of
time.

Similarly, pediatricians can help babies start the path to good oral
health. Half of new mothers (50%) clean their infant’s gums daily, but
nearly two-thirds (65%) do if the pediatrician discussed their baby’s
oral health. However, 34% of new mothers say the pediatrician has not
discussed care of their child’s teeth and gums with them.

Oral health information for pregnant women, new mothers and their
families can be found by visiting www.cigna.com/dental-resources.

About the Survey

Healthy
Smiles for Mom and Baby: Insights into Expecting and New Mothers’ Oral
Health Habits
is a national survey of 801 pregnant women
and new mothers (within the past 12 months) between the ages of 21 to
45. Half have dental benefits. The survey was fielded August 12 to
August 16, 2015 by M/A/R/C Research. The sampling error is +/- 3.5% at a
95 percent confidence level.

About Cigna

Cigna Corporation (NYSE: CI) is a global health service company
dedicated to helping people improve their health, well-being and sense
of security. All products and services are provided exclusively by or
through operating subsidiaries of Cigna Corporation, including
Connecticut General Life Insurance Company, Cigna Health and Life
Insurance Company, Life Insurance Company of North America and Cigna
Life Insurance Company of New York. Such products and services include
an integrated suite of health services, such as medical, dental,
behavioral health, pharmacy, vision, supplemental benefits, and other
related products including group life, accident and disability
insurance. Cigna maintains sales capability in 30 countries and
jurisdictions, and has more than 89 million customer relationships
throughout the world. To learn more about Cigna®, including links to
follow us on Facebook or Twitter, visit www.cigna.com.

Contacts

Cigna Corporation
Karen Eldred, 860-787-7015
karen.eldred@cigna.com