“Pregnant patients require certain methodology for comfort and safety during dental appointments, but most dental students don’t ever get exposure to them,” explained Dr. Rocio Quinonez, associate professor in the Schools of Dentistry and Medicine, Departments of Pediatric Dentistry and Pediatrics. “This new clinic rotation changes that.”
The rotation is part of the Prenatal Oral Health Program, or pOHP, a program co-developed by Quinonez and Dr. Kim Boggess, professor in the UNC School of Medicine Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. D.D.S. Class of 2014 students Amanda Kilburn Kerns and Jeff Jackson have also played key roles in the development of the new rotation.
pOHP, which is funded by a grant from the Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation, is designed to educate all prenatal health care providers and expectant women on how oral health affects a woman’s overall health and how that can help set a trajectory of optimal oral health practices for their child.
”This is a really exciting development for our school, especially our fourth-year General Dentistry Clinic,” said Dr. Scott Eidson, one of the group clinic directors for the General Dentistry Clinic. “This program is really needed in our community and helps us redefine the clinical experience for the fourth year students by having them involved in an integrated health care project with the OB-GYN medical students. By adding this rotation to our general dentistry clinic experience, we are training our new graduates to spread the word that pregnant women can be safely treated during pregnancy while serving a population in great need of care.”
As part of the pOHP grant, development of a pOHP kit is underway. The kit is designed to be an educational aid for both the care provider and the patient. It will contain a variety of materials for use during discussions between pregnant women and their care providers to educate women about how their oral health while pregnant affects their unborn child, including a training video for primary health care providers and another specific for the dental team.
“Many women don’t know the impact of their own oral health on the oral health of their children,” said Boggess. “That’s something that expectant mothers – and their care providers – need to know. By continuing to work together, the Schools of Dentistry and Medicine will be able to produce care providers who can treat pregnant patients while educating them to be mindful of their oral care.”
The new student clinic rotation began this Fall. The first phase of this initiative focuses on patient referrals by the UNC OB-GYN clinic of the North Carolina Women’s Hospital at UNC, as well as local Head Start programs, UNC Student Health and select private OBGYNs. Organizers anticipate the program can grow to be a safety net for pregnant women across the state.