NU Online News Service, April 11, 2005, 5:03 p.m. EDT

Principal Financial Group Inc. is responding to new scientific research about dental health by updating its wellness program for pregnant women.[@@]

The Des Moines, Iowa, insurer has added a gum health screening benefit to the prenatal care program it offers pregnant members of its group health plans.

Principal is making the change because of several studies, including one reported by the New York University dental school, that show that pregnant women with poor oral health are more likely to deliver prematurely and that mothers with high levels of oral bacteria associated with tooth decay are at risk of delivering preterm, low-birthweight babies.