The 3-year study will be managed by the University of Sydney School of Dentistry, the Charles Perkins Centre and the Nepean Clinical School. The team consists of experts and clinicians in the field of oral health, paediatrics, and gynaecology as well as higher degree research students and research supporting staff. The University is also collaborating with the local health district on this project, with the involvement of the Nepean Clinic for Oral Health.
The study will investigate the long-term effects of oral health care and education during pregnancy on the oral health of the mother and general health of the newborn, in women with poor oral health from a low socioeconomic background.
“Oral health of the pregnant woman is critical for the health of the newborn child’s development, and so considerable effort has been undertaken to improve the health literacy of pregnant women,” explains Professor Joerg Eberhard, the project lead.
“However, health literacy does not imply improved health, and it’s still unclear how the good oral health of pregnant women affects the oral and general overall health of the newborn.”
The women’s oral health status and sleep efficacy will be recorded and correlated with histological, immunological and biological samples taken pre- and post-delivery. This will be used to investigate links between oral health and whether a child develops allergies as well as their general health over time.
“This information may also provide ‘red flags’ in the identification and treatment of maternal complications such as preeclampsia or miscarriage,” says Professor Eberhard.
“We’re grateful to the Bupa Health Foundation for their generous support in helping our researchers undertake this important work,” says Professor Heiko Spallek, Head of School and Dean of the Sydney Dental School.
Bupa Health Foundation Executive Leader, Ms Annette Schmiede said investing in this type of work is crucial.
“We now know that what happens in the early stages of a child’s life can have lasting implications on their overall health and wellbeing," she says. "The Foundation is pleased to support this project that not only aims to improve the oral health of pregnant women but also provide them with the education and support they need to give their child the best possible start”.