Pregnant abuse victims have poorer oral health experience

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Study indicates pregnant victims of intimate partner violence have poorer oral health

A recent study found that a high proportion of victims of intimate partner violence had no knowledge of the particular importance of oral care during pregnancy. (Image: Antonio Guillem/Shutterstock)

SAN FRANCISCO, US: Physical intimate partner violence (IPV) can be especially detrimental during pregnancy and is a significant public health issue, having considerable consequences for maternal health. The findings of a recent study revealed that women who experienced prenatal physical IPV reported worse oral health experiences during pregnancy. They were significantly more likely to report not knowing the importance of oral healthcare, not having an oral health discussion with their provider and needing to see a dentist for a problem.

The data for this research was sourced from the Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System, covering 31 states in the US from 2016 to 2019 and involving 85,289 respondents. Among those who reported needing to see a dentist for a problem, 68.7% of IPV-exposed women had unmet dental care needs compared with 57.5% among those who had not experienced IPV. Given the risks associated with both IPV and oral health issues for maternal and infant health, the findings underscore the importance of efforts aimed at reducing IPV during pregnancy and expanding oral healthcare services to IPV-exposed women.

The findings outlined that more than half (51.5%) of the victimised women did not have any form of appropriate dental prophylaxis. Nearly half (47.5%) had not discussed their oral health at all with any healthcare provider. Although 18.2% of the women had a dental problem which they needed to have treated by a dentist, only 13.8% visited a dentist to resolve the problem. Of the IPV-exposed women, 11.9% had no knowledge of the particular need to care for their gingivae and teeth during pregnancy.

The study, however, reported certain limitations, including its focus on physical IPV during pregnancy without considering other forms of IPV or IPV experiences earlier in life. The questions posed to the women in the study captured the occurrence of IPV, but did not detail the frequency, duration, severity or timing of it during the pregnancy. Moreover, the IPV and oral health experiences were self-reported and could be subject to bias.

The study, titled “Physical intimate partner violence and prenatal oral health experiences in the United States”, was published online on 12 October 2023 in BMC Oral Health.

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