Oral Health Connections (OHC)

Many people have dental coverage but still don’t go to the dentist. Why?

There are many reasons patients don’t make or keep dental appointments, including: lack of time, fear, challenges finding a provider- particularly if the patient is covered by Medicaid, transportation or child care issues, and work schedules.

Additionally, children with poor oral health often turn into adults with poor oral health, who in turn pass oral disease on to their children via kissing and sharing of eating utensils (think testing temperature of food on a spoon, “cleaning” off a pacifier that fell on the floor, etc.).

OHC is an upstream approach to break this cycle and prevent oral disease in children before birth by addressing the oral health of the mother. Additionally, improving a pregnant woman’s oral health status can prevent pregnancy complications such as pre-eclampsia and pre-term birth and low birth weight of the newborn.

Outside of pregnancy complications, poor oral health can lead to or exacerbate other chronic, inflammatory health conditions such as diabetes. For this reason OHC also focuses on the oral health needs of people with diabetes.

OHC is a pilot program serving eligible clients in Thurston, Cowlitz and Spokane counties.

Why Pregnant and Diabetic Patients?

Good oral health is especially this segment of the population because oral health, including periodontal (gum) disease, is linked to adverse outcomes in pregnancy and to diabetes complications. Moms with active tooth decay can pass cavity-causing germs to their babies, increasing the chance that their babies will get cavities. The demands of pregnancy can lead to particular dental problems in some women, including increased risk of gingivitis, enamel erosion, cavities, and decreased likelihood of brushing.

  • During pregnancy, a bad tooth or gum infection can create serious health problems for mom, and potentially baby too.
  • Only 40% of women report having their teeth cleaned during pregnancy.
  • After delivery, moms with tooth decay can pass cavity-causing bacteria to their babies and toddlers by sharing utensils, and cleaning pacifiers in their mouths. If moms have untreated tooth decay it greatly increases the possibility that their babies will get cavities before age two.
  • Tooth decay is easily preventable and babies with good oral health are more likely to enjoy a lifetime of better oral health. Cavities in baby teeth can spread to adult teeth.
  • To find out more, visit: https://www.arcorafoundation.org/access/cde-prenatal

Diabetic patients also face unique challenges maintaining their oral health care. Gum disease makes it more difficult for people with diabetes to control their blood sugar. (https://www.arcorafoundation.org/) Periodontal disease is the most common dental disease affecting those living with diabetes, affecting nearly 22% of those diagnosed. (https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/d/diabetes)


Call Katrin Palmer at 360-539-7576 ext. 103 or email us at abcd@crhn.org for more information and to find out how to get a referral to a dentist.