Survey Findings Show Midwives to be Clinical Champions in Oral Health Care

May 3, 2019, New York, NY — Serving on the front lines of health care for women during pregnancy and across their life span, a midwife may very well be the first to identify an oral health condition or disease, even before the dentist. A new national survey reveals midwives are well-positioned to meet this challenge.


The survey of midwifery clinical education programs, conducted by the Center for Integration of Primary Care and Oral Health (CIPCOH), focused on assessing how well oral health was integrated in the educational curriculum. The large majority of respondents indicated high levels of satisfaction with graduates' level of oral health training and competence. Results of the study were recently published in a paper in the Journal of Midwifery and Women’s Health.


“Midwives are considered primary care providers and comprise a significant proportion of the women’s health workforce providing pregnancy, gynecological, and well-woman care for adolescents and women during young, middle and older adulthood,” says lead author Judith Haber, PhD, APRN, FAAN, Ursula Springer Leadership Professor and Executive Director of the Oral Health Nursing Education and Practice Program (OHNEP) at the NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing.


“Midwives who are prepared with appropriate interprofessional oral health competencies are well-prepared to expand access to oral health care, especially for women and families from vulnerable and underserved populations,” states Julia Lange-Kessler, DNP, CM, FACNM and Program Director, Midwifery and Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner Programs at Georgetown University, School of Nursing and Health Studies.


Since 2000, when the U.S. Surgeon General called for increased awareness of the importance of oral health to overall health, efforts to bring oral health into preparation of primary care providers, including midwives, have been steadily gaining ground.


“Having midwives invested in the role oral health plays in overall health is vital,” says co-author and Co-Principal Investigator Hugh Silk, MD, MPH, Professor of Family Medicine & Community Health at UMass Medical School, Medical Director of the Primary Care Wellness Center/Community Healthlink, and part-time lecturer at Harvard School of Dental Medicine (HSDM). “That’s why they are such powerful allies in identifying oral health conditions and recognizing inequities in access to dental care,” he added.


The study points to several academic institutions that have led the way in midwifery education and practice—New York University Rory Meyers College of Nursing and Georgetown University of Nursing and Health Studies. Both programs have advanced interprofessional education for midwifery, medical, dental, and pharmacy students stressing the oral-systemic health connection.


“A significant contribution has been made by initiatives such as the Nursing Education and Practice Program (OHNEP) to improving population health by the nursing profession and midwives as they integrate oral health as an essential component of overall health in clinical education and practice settings,” says co-author Erin Harnett, DNP, APRN-BC, CPNP at the NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing and Director of the OHNEP Program.


While progress has been made, more work is to be done to advance these efforts. The authors propose recommendations to continue to cultivate midwifery faculty champions, as well as promote oral health education and competency in midwifery curricula. 


“Our study findings hold promise for addressing the gap in access to oral health care and eliminating oral health disparities in the United States,” says co-author, Maria Dolce, PhD, RN, Associate Professor at Stonybrook University School of Nursing.


The study is one of several that focus on the inclusion of oral health curricula and competency within various primary care training programs. The work is a joint endeavor of the academic partner institutions of CIPCOH; the partners include: Harvard Medical Schooland Harvard School of Dental Medicine(HMS/HSDM), the HMS Center for Primary Care (CPC), and the University of Massachusetts Medical School’s Department of Family Medicine and Community Health (UMMFMCH), in partnership with MCPHS University (formerly the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences), and Stony Brook University.




The Oral Health Nursing Education and Practice Program (OHNEP) was launched in 2011 through a grant funded by the DentaQuest and Arcora Foundations. OHNEP serves as a national resource for oral health integration into undergraduate and graduate nursing programs through faculty development, curriculum integration and establishment of best practices in primary, acute, home and long-term clinical settings. OHNEP aims to increase interprofessional oral health workforce capacity to improve oral health access, decrease oral health disparities, and promotes high quality and cost-effective whole person.