• African American women;
  • anticipatory guidance;
  • dental care experience;
  • oral health;
  • prenatal care

Abstract:  Background:  Poor oral health is increasingly linked to adverse pregnancy outcomes, including preterm birth and low-birthweight infants. Little is known about childbearing women’s experiences in obtaining dental care. The objective of this study was to explore Florida women’s experience of barriers in obtaining dental care before and during their pregnancies.

Methods:  Study data were derived from a larger data set of a study that examined barriers to prenatal care. One month after giving birth face-to-face interviews were conducted with 253 African American women, 18 to 35 years old, who were residents of one of three Florida counties. Interview questions about women’s experiences on obtaining oral health care before and during pregnancy, and recall of guidance about oral health care during prenatal visits were transcribed and analyzed qualitatively. Through subject-level content analysis, key themes were assessed about the participants’ perspectives on obtaining oral health care before and during pregnancy.

Results:  Most participants did not obtain dental care and did not recall receiving dental information during prenatal visits. Barriers to dental care included lack of insurance, difficulty in finding a dentist, low priority given to dental care, misconceptions about the safety and appropriateness of dental care during pregnancy, and sporadic anticipatory guidance during prenatal care.

Conclusions:  Misconceptions about the appropriateness of oral health care during pregnancy may affect women’s access to and use of this care. Given the implications of poor oral health on possible adverse birth outcomes and its larger connection with the general health of mothers and babies, attention to oral health misconceptions and barriers is warranted. (BIRTH 37:4 December 2010)