Dental services during pregnancy can improve maternal oral health, reduce mother-child transmission of cariogenic bacteria, and create opportunities for anticipatory guidance. This study aimed to understand why low-income women did or did not utilize dental services in a pilot program to promote dental visits during pregnancy in Klamath County, Oregon.
Sixty women were contacted and 51 participated in semi-structured telephone interviews regarding utilization of dental services during pregnancy. Women were selected randomly from the pilot program: 45 women (88%) utilized dental services and six did not. Transcripts were content analyzed using a mixed method qualitative approach – grounded theory and Stages of Change model – to identify themes and sub-themes.
Most women overcame stress or dentally-related barriers to use care. Stressors included poor domestic relationships, personal finances, and employment. Dentally-related factors included perception of dental experience, attitude toward dental providers, importance/valuing of oral health, perceived ability to pay for care, time constraints, dental providers’ and office staff attitudes toward clients.
Identifying barriers that prevent low-income women from taking action to access dental care during pregnancy provides information essential for enhancing public-private health programs to promote dental visits, reduce mother-child transmission, and provide guidance to new mothers.