We get approached with several questions regarding receiving dental care during pregnancy, we wanted to dispel some of the myths which may be out there.
Q: Is It Safe to Visit the Dentist While Pregnant
A: Yes! Visiting your dentist during pregnancy is not only safe, but recommended.
Various changes in the body during pregnancy, such as rising hormone levels (which can irritate the gums), can cause an increased risk of dental problems. According to the American Pregnancy Association, “Preventive dental work while pregnant is essential to avoid oral infections such as gum disease, which has been linked to preterm birth”. Some pregnant women may wish to receive more frequent dental cleanings to control increased plaque and maintain optimum oral health.
Make sure to let your dentist know that you are pregnant. The dentist will be able to provide the safest and most comfortable treatment for you if aware of your pregnancy.
Q: Should I have dental procedures performed during my pregnancy?
A: When a pregnant woman has untreated cavities or oral infection, there is an increased risk to both the mother and developing child. Dental work such as a filling or crown can decrease the risk of developing an infection.
An expecting mother may experience a dental emergency that requires urgent care. In such cases, a root canal or tooth extraction may be performed to relieve intense discomfort. A dental x-ray will be used to diagnose and effectively treat these problems. According to the American College of Radiology, “no single diagnostic x-ray has a radiation dose significant enough to cause adverse effects in a developing embryo or fetus”. Extra precautions will be made to limit the risk to the mother and baby in these cases.
Q: When is the best time to have non-emergent dental treatment during pregnancy?
A: Elective dental treatment (i.e. tooth whitening and other cosmetic procedures) should be postponed until after pregnancy. Other dental treatment as needed is most safely performed between the second trimester and the first half of the third trimester of pregnancy. This window of time minimizes risk to fetal organ formation during the first trimester (when dental drugs and anesthesia are best avoided) and increased physical discomfort that the mother may experience from laying on her back late in pregnancy.
Q: Are dental x-rays safe during pregnancy?
A: Advances in x-ray equipment have drastically reduced the amount of radiation exposure for both patients and healthcare workers. However, for pregnant women, dentists limit the use of x-ray treatment to dental emergencies. Routine x-rays are postponed until after pregnancy.
Q: Are dental drugs and anesthesia safe during pregnancy?
A: The most common drugs that dentists may use for pregnant women are antibiotics (to treat infection) and Lidocaine (a numbing medication).
Antibiotics such as penicillin, amoxicillin, and clindamycin, which are labeled category B for safety in pregnancy, are commonly used while other, less safe, antibiotics are typically avoided.
Lidocaine, also a category B drug, does cross the placenta after administration to a pregnant woman. There has been conflict in the medical community concerning the degree of risk during pregnancy. The dentist will use as little Lidocaine as possible to make you comfortable during your dental procedure. If you are experiencing pain, additional Lidocaine can be used. Dentists agree that the benefit of receiving needed dental work, and the reduced maternal stress experienced when a modest amount of Lidocaine is used outweigh the risks of its usage.
Q: How can I care for my teeth at home while I’m pregnant?
A: Follow good oral hygiene procedures to prevent a condition called prenancy gingivitis–including brushing your teeth at least twice a day and flossing at least once a day. You should use a soft-bristled toothbrush and a toothpaste containing flouride, and brush for a minimum of two minutes to remove plaque from your teeth.
Some women who experience morning sickness may develop an aversion to the flavor of their toothpaste. Talk to your dentist or dental hygienist about some brands of toothpaste that are more bland and less likely to cause tooth brushing to be an unpleasant experience. If you do have vomiting alongside morning sickness, it is important to rinse your mouth with water or mouthwash to maintain good oral health.
Pregnancy can cause cravings for sugary foods. You should enjoy sweet foods in moderation due to the increased risk of tooth decay. Some studies even suggest that the bacteria responsible for tooth decay are passed between mother and unborn child. On the converse, dairy products and other healthy snacks are good for the baby’s developing teeth, gums, and bones. An unborn baby’s teeth start to develop around the third month of pregnancy, so keep in mind that what you eat affects his/her dental health as well.
For a free, printable entitled “Oral Health During Pregnancy” authored by the American Dental Association, click here: