Cibulka To Study Link Between Dental Health, Healthy Pregnancies


Research to be conducted by Maryville University nursing professor Nancy Cibulka, Ph.D., APRN, BC, and her fellow nurse practicioners at Barnes-Jewish Hospital’s OB-GYN clinic, will give low-income women a reason to smile in more ways than one. Cibulka’s group has received a $26,404 grant from the B-JH Foundation to conduct a study that will examine the connection between dental health and healthy pregnancies.

“Poor dental health has been associated with pregnancy complications such as prematurity and low birth weight,” said Cibulka, who said the two-year study will begin February 1. “We hope to show an increase in knowledge, attitudes and health practices among pregnant women at the OB-Gyn clinic at BJH. We also hope to see fewer preterm, low-birth weight infants born to this group of women.” The clinic serves primarily low-income patients who are on Medicaid.

Cibulka, the study’s principal investigator, said 200 pregnant women will be evenly divided, at random, into an experimental group and a control group. Those in the experimental group will watch a video demonstrating proper dental hygiene techniques; meet with a research assistant; receive toothpaste, a toothbrush and dental floss; and have an appointment scheduled for them with a local dentist. They also will complete questionnaires at the beginning and the end of the study.

Participants in the control group will only fill out questionnaires at the start and conclusion of the study. Everyone will be informed that they are taking part in a research project, Cibulka said.

Cibulka, who has taught at Maryville University since 2001 and who has worked two days a week at the Barnes clinic since 1993, said the connection between good dental health and healthy pregnancies has sparked several studies in recent years. The connection even is acknowledged on, a website operated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Cibulka said their clinic receives calls on a regular basis from women complaining of toothaches and other dental problems which go untreated because they can’t afford to visit a dentist. She recalled one published report of a woman, not locally, who overdosed on Tylenol after taking the pain reliever in an attempt to stop her toothache.

The frequent calls to their clinic and the mounting interest among researchers prompted the OB-GYN nurse practicioners to decide in the summer of 2006 that they wanted to study dental health in St. Louis-area pregnant women. Barnes-Jewish sent Cibulka to Arizona State University for a week to study the process of conducting evidence-based research, which is the model Cibulka’s group will follow in conducting its study. Cibulka noted she and Kathy Goodwin, a certified nurse midwife at Barnes-Jewish, will present a paper outlining their study at Arizona State on February 22-23.

Because the 200 participants in their study will be phased in over a six-month period, the study will last more than a year and will not conclude until all of the women have had their babies and have returned to the OB-GYN clinic for a post-natal checkup. Cibulka hopes the study will demonstrate to her Maryville students the importance of relying on scientific research in daily nursing practice.

Maryville University, founded in 1872, is a private, coeducational institution offering approximately 50 undergraduate, seven master’s and two doctoral degree programs to 3,300 students. Ranked by U.S. News and World Report as one of America’s Best Colleges in the Midwest, Maryville University prepares its students for successful and meaningful careers by offering programs that integrate liberal arts with professional studies.

Among Maryville’s most recent graduates, 94 percent are employed or attending graduate school. Approximately 15,000 alumni work and live in the St. Louis region.