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Dental Visit During Pregnancy

Is It Safe To Go To The Dentist During Pregnancy?

During pregnancy, your schedule is likely to be filled with many medical appointments, for the safety of both mom and baby. Since dental health is an important indicator of overall health, dental checkups should be part of an expectant mom’s appointment calendar, too. However, many women have questions and concerns about whether it’s safe to go to the dentist while pregnant.

How Pregnancy Affects Your Dental Health

Pregnant women experience a host of physiological changes, and dental health is no exception. Pregnancy can make existing dental discomfort worse, and it can also cause new conditions to develop. In particular, moms-to-be should be cognizant of the following:

Pregnancy Gingivitis

Normal hormonal changes associated with pregnancy can cause some women to develop inflammation of the gums, called gingivitis, which leads to swelling and tenderness. It may even mean that your gums bleed when you floss or brush your teeth. Though it may not sound serious, untreated pregnancy gingivitis can lead to more serious gum diseases. Frequent cleanings from your dental professional can go a long way toward preventing serious gum complications.

Tooth Decay

Pregnancy is also a time when women are more prone to tooth decay. If you’re suffering from morning sickness, you likely have an increased amount of acid in your mouth, which can wear away your enamel – that is, the outer covering of your teeth. Many women find that brushing their teeth leads to increased morning sickness or nausea symptoms, and they begin to brush and floss less, which may also contribute to decay. Expectant mothers also report less frequent brushing due to a more sensitive gag reflex, tender or painful gums and general exhaustion. While these symptoms are all normal, it’s important to keep up your regular dental routine. This is because poor dental health has actually been associated with dangerous pregnancy conditions, including preeclampsia, intrauterine growth restriction, gestational diabetes and preterm labor.

Pregnancy Tumors

Though not as serious as most types of tumors we think of, pregnancy tumors on the gums can be downright painful. In this condition, overgrowths of tissue appear on the gums, usually related to excess plaque. They tend to be swollen, red and raw, and they may bleed. They usually appear during the second trimester of pregnancy and disappear once baby is born, but a dentist can provide some relief for this condition.

Medications

Even if you’re not suffering from any dental complications during your pregnancy, you may be taking new medications. Be sure to disclose your pregnancy to your dentist, including how far along you are, any prescription medications you’re taking, any over-the-counter medications you’re using and side effects you may be experiencing from them. If you need any medications related to dental conditions, such as an antibiotic, your dentist will confer with your obstetrician and ensure that you only receive prescriptions that are safe for you and your unborn baby, while also working to minimize the risk of infection.

Local Anesthetics

One of the most common concerns of pregnant women is whether they should move forward with dental procedures like cavity fillings, root canals or pulled teeth while pregnant. Each of these common procedures uses local anesthetics as numbing agents to keep you comfortable, and these medications are known to be safe for mother and child. In fact, the Journal of the American Dental Association completed a 2015 study in which they followed a group of pregnant women who had procedures using local anesthetics. They observed that these women had no difference in the rate of miscarriage, premature birth, baby weight or birth defects when compared to women who did not have any dental procedures while pregnant. Indeed, the doctors involved in the study reported no increased risk associated with the use of local anesthetics. Still, as a precaution, most dentists will use the minimum amount of anesthetic needed to keep you comfortable during your procedure.

Dental X-Rays

You may be surprised to learn that dental x-rays are also safe during pregnancy. The American College of Radiology reports that no single diagnostic x-ray contains enough radiation to cause adverse effects to a developing embryo or fetus. Although the amount of radiation exposure from such x-rays is low, dentists take special precautions for pregnant women, like the use of shielding over your body. A leaded apron will typically be placed over your belly and a leaded collar will be placed over your throat for added protection for your thyroid.

Elective Treatments

While preventive dental cleanings and exams are recommended as part of a healthy pregnancy practice, and many common procedures are not at all harmful to an unborn baby, the American Pregnancy Association does recommend postponing elective dental treatments, such as teeth whitening or other cosmetic procedures, until after you’ve given birth. This is largely due to the fact that any amount of pain you experience could potentially increase stress on your body and, therefore, on your baby.

Other Considerations

If you need dental work while pregnant and you’re able to select the timing, you’re likely to be most comfortable during the second trimester. For many women, the first trimester is characterized by morning sickness symptoms, and it may become difficult to lay on your back for long periods during the third trimester. If you need emergent dental work during these times, talk with your dentist to ensure you can be made as comfortable as possible. If you do undergo a procedure, be sure to keep your legs uncrossed in the dental chair, as this will help prevent poor circulation and blood clots, which pregnant women can be prone to experiencing during periods of physical inactivity longer than one hour.

It’s common to be nervous about dental work during pregnancy, but your dental health is important – and directly related to – your overall pregnancy health. Talk openly with your dentist about your pregnancy, any dental discomfort you’re experiencing and any questions or concerns you may have. Your dentist, just like your obstetrician, is a medical professional committed to providing safe, quality care to you and your unborn baby during this special time in your life.

Posted in: General Dentistry, Pregnancy

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