Updated: Mar 22, 2021
As many of my patients know, I had a baby less than a year ago. I was expecting a baby at a time when several of my friends were pregnant too.
I learned that all of them were well-versed in the benefits of prenatal care with their OB/Gyns, but dental health during pregnancy wasn’t getting the focus it deserves. Among my friends, I was surprised at the misinformation they had about dentistry during pregnancy, so I’ve compiled a list of lesser-known facts about pregnancy and dentistry.
Pregnancy hormones make the gums act up. Pregnancy hormones can cause the gums to be extra tender or swollen, leading to irritation and bleeding gums. There are even granulomas that are pregnancy-induced, so be sure to have your dentist or hygienist check your gums for any potential issues at your routine cleaning.
Pregnancy can change eating habits, which can cause cavities. As I’ve talked about before, frequent eating, snacking, or consumption of bubbly drinks or sugary beverages increases acidity in the mouth, causing cavities. Since pregnant women need extra calories to support the growing fetus and often resort to snacking, it’s important to rule out that cavities haven’t developed. Unchecked cavities can lead to pain or dental infections.
Unhealthy gums may negatively affect the developing baby There is considerable research supporting the link between periodontal (gum) disease and preterm birth and low birth weight. It’s prudent and safe to get your regular dental exams and cleanings.
Dental x-rays are safe during pregnancy In the July 2019 issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association, x-rays during pregnancy were shown to be safe and important. At Smiletheory, we employ digital radiography which has significantly less radiation than conventional x-rays. We also use double lead aprons with thyroid shields to further minimize your exposure during pregnancy. While the 2nd trimester is the best time to have x-rays taken, any time is safe to do so, particularly when there is an emergent dental need or the pregnant patient is in pain.
Dental medications and anesthesia are safe to use during pregnancy The risk of treatment is always weighed against the risk of no treatment. For treatment that will prevent infection of the teeth, gums or bone, it is prudent to have the dental treatment performed during pregnancy. It is advisable to delay elective procedures like whitening or orthodontic treatment.
A final point: Healthy women with uncomplicated pregnancies can safely receive oral health services without a consultation from their prenatal care provider. Of course, if you have any concerns, don’t hesitate to check with your provider before getting dental treatment.