KAHULUI — With studies indicating a possible link between dental problems and premature birth, the Maui Oral Health Initiative is offering free dental screenings and cleanings this month for pregnant women on Medicaid or without health insurance.
The evidence is not definitive, but the American Academy of Periodontology recommends that pregnant women have a periodontal evaluation because of the potential risk for premature birth. The theory is that dental disease may trigger increased levels of biological fluids that may induce labor.
“All infections are cause for concern among pregnant women because they pose a risk to the health of the baby,” the academy’s Web site said.
A Hawaii man’s anonymous donation, administered by the University of Hawaii Foundation, has given pregnant Maui women free access to that periodontal evaluation. The funds were given to the Maui Oral Health Initiative, which includes the Maui Oral Health Center and mobile van.
This free program has been ongoing since April, but fewer than 10 women have taken advantage of the dental services so far, said Marcia Hoffman with Maui Community College’s Allied Health Department, of which the Oral Health Center is a part.
Up to seven women a day could have their teeth cleaned, she said.
Screenings will be performed on a first-come, first-served basis from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays in the mobile van parked at MCC near the Health Center.
An Oral Health Center dentist will examine patients and order two digital bitewing X-ray films, which will not harm the baby, said Hoffman. The dentist will make referrals for teeth cleanings and other dental problems.
The cleanings with a hygienist will take place by appointment on Thursdays between 8 a.m. and noon and 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. Other dental issues may be handled by the Oral Health Center and mobile van, which care for the same group of insured and uninsured women.
The program is ongoing through May 29 and could continue through mid-July if there are sufficient numbers of patients, said Hoffman.
For more information, call Hoffman at 205-5418 or Rosie Vierra at 984-3250.