Improving the oral health of pregnant women in the Riverina is the aim of a new program being coordinated by the Murrumbidgee Local Health District (MLHD) and Charles Sturt University (CSU).
The Smile Mum Wagga Wagga initiative involves pregnant women being referred* by MLHD midwives to the Oral Health Services Project Coordinator, who then arranges free appointments for oral health treatment and education at the University's Dental and Oral Health Clinic in Wagga Wagga.
The program is funded by the NSW Ministry of Health's Centre for Oral Health Strategy.
MLHD Oral Health Promotion Officer Mrs Jennifer Lang said the program as a new model of care is clear designed to improve the general and oral health of pregnant women and their new baby.
"It is well documented that the tooth decay in early childhood often results from an infected mother passing on the bacteria during normal family contact – feeding, sharing utensils and dummy usage," she said.
"Therefore poor maternal oral health increases the risk of babies developing early childhood tooth decay.
"The research shows that all pregnant women should receive a comprehensive oral health evaluation because poor maternal oral health may affect pregnancy outcomes - such as pre-term birth and low birth weight babies, and the general health of the woman and her baby."
The Smile Mum Wagga Wagga project team includes representatives from MLHD Midwifery, Oral Health Services and Clinical Redesign and CSU's Oral Health program.
Final year oral health student at CSU in Wagga Wagga Ms Anna Bromham, who is part of the project team, said "I believe the Smile Mum program is a fantastic initiative. Pregnant woman are able to access oral health treatment and education at the same time as the students gaining experience in a workplace setting.
"It has been a wonderful opportunity to be involved in the planning stages of the project through to its implementation when the Smile Mums are welcomed into the Clinic," she said.
Mrs Lang said the new model was working well, with 62 referrals since the program started in April.
"Positive comments have been received from the pregnant women who have attended CSU for the free treatment and education. The oral health students are supervised by qualified staff in the Charles Sturt University Clinic," she said.
*Pregnant women need to be eligible for a Centrelink concession card and be aged under 25 years to ask for referral from their midwife.
The Bachelor of Oral Health (Therapy/Hygiene) is a three year program at the School of Dentistry and Health Sciences at CSU in Wagga Wagga.
The University has Dental and Oral Health Clinics at Bathurst, Dubbo Thurgoona, Orange and Wagga Wagga. Appointments can be made by telephoning 1300 278 642.