Exploring oral health among pregnant and parenting adolescent women: a mixed methods study
Murphey, Christina Leigh
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Despite growing interest in maternal oral health, research aimed at this population is scant. To date, no qualitative studies of adolescent maternal oral health exist. Therefore, the purpose of this descriptive, exploratory, concurrent, mixed-methods study was to explore oral health status, beliefs, and practices, and pregnancy and parenting outcomes in this population by triangulating both quantitative and qualitative data. A non-probability, convenience sample of 46 pregnant and parenting adolescents was recruited. Five questionnaires were administered and visual oral examinations were conducted. Twenty-four of these 46 participants also participated in the qualitative component of the study. Adolescents in this study were both pregnant (n = 20; 43.5%) and parenting (n = 26; 56.5%), and primarily of Hispanic decent (n = 38; 83%). Of the 20 adolescents who were pregnant, four had been told by a nurse or physician that they had a pregnancy complication(s). Among the parenting adolescents, the most common past pregnancy complications were self-reported as prematurity (n = 6; 35%) and high blood pressure (n = 3; 18%). Thirty-three (72%) participants reported ever having dental insurance. While 16 (35%) participants had seen a dentist in the past 6 months, another 15 (33%) did not recall their last dental visit. One adolescent reported never having been to a dentist. Associations among visual oral health status and selected contextual variables were non-significant, which may be attributed to the small sample size. However, moderate significant correlations were found between social connectedness and oral-health-related quality of life, as well as between visual oral health status and measures of self-reported dental health. For the qualitative component, six themes related to oral health value and well-being, oral health knowledge, practices, myths, and barriers to accessing oral health services emerged. Triangulation of the quantitative and qualitative data did not produce statistical significance; however, discrepancies were found between the overall objective, visual oral health status, and the subjective perception of oral health status, which supports the overall findings. Future research should focus on larger studies to further explore associations between social connectedness, oral-health-related quality of life, and objective and subjective measures of oral health status and behaviors.