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Improving Oral Health in Women: Nurses' Call to Action

Clemmens, Donna A. PhD, RN; Kerr, A. Ross DDS

MCN, The American Journal of Maternal/Child Nursing: January-February 2008 - Volume 33 - Issue 1 - p 10–14
doi: 10.1097/01.NMC.0000305650.56000.e8
CE: Original Article

The purpose of this article is to discuss the most significant oral health and related problems experienced by women, and to provide a Nurse's Plan of Action to respond to these largely preventable diseases. Oral health is integral to women's overall health and well-being, with poor oral health being associated with cancer, heart disease, diabetes, depression, and the birth of preterm, low-birthweight babies. Poor nutrition and lifestyle, principally tobacco and heavy alcohol use, can further increase the risk for oral diseases. Disparities are evident in women's reported poor access of regular dental care related to lack of dental insurance and low income. These facts are disturbing because most oral diseases are preventable. The Surgeon General's report on oral health in America (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2000) and, more recently, the “National Call to Action to Promote Oral Health” (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2003) emphasized the need for partnerships of key stakeholders, including nurses, to get involved in oral disease prevention. Nurses are in an ideal position to provide health promotion education and screening across the multitude of settings in which they work regarding oral health and risk factors for oral disease. Nursing interventions aimed at promoting healthy outcomes and preventing disease should include a focus on oral health.

This overview article about the importance of oral health to the optimal health of women sets the stage for this series of articles.

Donna A. Clemmens is an Assistant Professor, New York University College of Nursing, New York, NY. She can be reached via e-mail at

A. Ross Kerr is an Assistant Professor, New York University College of Dentistry, New York, NY.

There are no conflicts of interests.

© 2008 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.