Pregnancy and Dental Care

Pregnancy and Dental Care

by Alex Hirsch (SU)

Many women who are pregnant – and tired of visits to the OB/GYN, touring maternity wards, finding a pediatrician, etc. – opt to skip the dentist. They may simply not want “one more appointment,” or they may have misguided fear for their fetus. 

In actuality, the dentist’s appointment is one visit that pregnant women should absolutely keep, because her changing hormone levels can wreak havoc with her teeth and oral health during pregnancy. There are several conditions that routinely affect pregnant women, so your dentist will look carefully for those and other issues.

Is Going to the Dentist Safe During Pregnancy?

Yes. Preventive dental cleanings and checkups are safe and recommended for pregnant women. During pregnancy, the hormones may cause a woman’s gums to swell, bleed, trap food, and cause increased irritation – so seeing a dentist is crucial to keeping your teeth in good shape through the whole pregnancy.

What about fillings and other dental work? Yes! They should be treated promptly in order to prevent the chance of infection.

The second trimester is an ideal time for a dental appointment, because by this time the baby is well-formed and healthy. The same is true for the third trimester, but an expectant mom likely does not want to lie on her back for extended periods during a dental checkup. It is merely a matter of personal comfort. 

Unnecessary dental work – such as teeth whitening or other cosmetic procedures – should be postponed until after the baby is born, and possibly also after breastfeeding. These procedures are unlikely to cause harm, but pregnancy creates many variables and a certain amount of vulnerability.

What About Emergency Dental Work?

There are occasions when a root canal or some other type of emergency dental work is necessary, even during pregnancy. Go ahead and have it done, because any infection that may otherwise occur in the mouth can also infect the baby.

Lidocaine, the most common anesthesia for dental work, does not cross the placental barrier – so it won’t affect the baby in any way. And it is indeed best to have anesthesia to avoid pain during the procedure, because pain will put stress on both the mom and the baby.

If X-rays are needed in the case of an emergency root canal, a single dental X-ray is fine. One X-ray does not have enough radiation to cause an adverse effect on the fetus.

The American Dental Association, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the American Academy of Pediatrics all encourage women to maintain regular dental care during pregnancy. Proper oral health can have a huge effect on a woman’s overall health, so this is especially important during pregnancy.

How Pregnancy Affects the Mouth

There are several conditions that the surge of hormones can cause in a pregnant woman’s mouth, such as the following:

  • Pregnancy gingivitis, in which the hormones cause swelling of the gums. The gums may also bleed when brushing or flossing.
  • Increased risk of tooth decay, possibly because of the dietary changes associated with pregnancy. Morning sickness and vomiting can also contribute to decay. If you are experiencing morning sickness, rinse your mouth with a glass of water.
  • Pregnancy tumors in the mouth, which can form especially during the second trimester. These can be caused by excess plaque, but they are temporary and will go away after the baby is born.

Family Dentist in Minneapolis/St. Paul

Maintaining your dental hygiene throughout your pregnancy is extremely important to a woman’s overall health – as well as the health of the baby. Keep your dental appointments, and inform your dentist that you are or may be pregnant. That way, the dentist can be aware of any potential problems that may form while pregnant.

If you are in the Twin Cities area, contact our friendly team at Hagerman Dental Care by calling (651) 646-2392 or request an appointment online, and rest assured your teeth will be in the best hands possible!