Teeth for Two: Oral Health in Pregnancy and Early Childhood

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Erin Hartnett, DNP
New York University College of Nursing, New York, NY, USA
Judith Haber, PhD
College of Nursing, New York University Rory Meyers College of Nursing, New York, NY, USA


During pregnancy, changes occur in the oral cavity that may lead to oral disease. Poor oral health during pregnancy is associated with negative outcomes for mothers and their children. The purpose of this pilot project was to develop a standardized oral health curriculum to prepare Nurse Family Partnership (NFP) nurses to integrate oral health in home visits to high-risk, first time pregnant women and their children.


The NYU College of Nursing Oral Health Nursing Education and Practice (OHNEP) Program trained NFP nurses in Miami, Florida about oral health during pregnancy and early childhood using Cavity Free Kids (CFK), an evidence-based toolkit for integrating oral health into home visits. NFP nurses used the CFK oral health toolkit during home visits with first-time pregnant women and first-time mothers of children ages 0-2. Nurses and clients completed surveys (baseline, 30 and 90 days) to measure changes in oral health knowledge and practices. The nurse survey was self-administered through a web-based survey, and the client survey telephone-administered by trained interviewers. For the client data, changes across the three points in time were tested for statistical significance using a paired sample t-test.


Following the intervention, there was an increase in the number of nurses including oral health content in their home visits. There was also a statistically significant increase in the number of clients reporting that they have received oral health education and referral.


Including oral health in NFP home visit curriculum is an effective way to positively influence the oral health self-care and child care practices of high risk pregnant women and children. NFP nurses meet with each first-time mom in 64 planned home visits until the child reaches two years of age, when the majority of primary teeth should have erupted. They are well suited to provide the parental education needed to reduce the number of dental caries children experience in their primary teeth. The main barrier to this is finding a place to include oral health in an already jam-packed curriculum. Increased awareness of the burden of oral disease in the United States and greater funding are needed to ensure that oral health becomes a standard component of the home visiting framework.