What to know before your next dentist appointment
Pregnancy is a time of lots of changes and lots of rules. Pregnant women are often given a list of things to do and things not to do. Unfortunately, that list typically does not include something very important: dental visits. There is some confusion regarding dental work during pregnancy, and we are here to clear up that confusion.
Should I See the Dentist While I am Pregnant?
Some people mistakenly assume that you should not see your dentist while you are pregnant. That is a dangerous myth! Keeping your teeth and gums healthy helps you keep your entire body healthy. If you do not see a dentist, you are potentially allowing infections to develop in your teeth and gums, which can actually put your baby at risk. All pregnant women should see a dentist during pregnancy for preventive care.
Why are Dental Visits so Important during Pregnancy?
Dental visits are always important, and we think they are even more important when you are pregnant due to the potential for risk to the baby. Dental problems like gum disease and cavities do not stop during pregnancy. They will continue to progress and worsen if left untreated. Cavities and gum disease are both infectious diseases that produce inflammation in the body.
Because many dental problems do not cause pain until they are at an emergency state, you should never wait until something hurts. At that point, you could already have dangerous bacteria in your bloodstream. Dental visits during pregnancy help you prevent or manage any disease that could develop into an emergency situation during your pregnancy.
Why does Pregnancy Make my Gums Bleed?
During pregnancy, many women experience a phenomenon called pregnancy-induced gingivitis. The gums become red, swollen, tender, and bleed very easily. Basically, the gum tissues are hyper-sensitive. What might cause minor inflammation in a healthy adult will cause severe inflammation in a pregnant woman.
The cause of this increased inflammation is the large swings in hormone levels. We also see this type of gingivitis in children going through puberty and women undergoing menopause. Because these gums are hypersensitive, plaque control is essential. Any small piece of plaque or hard tartar buildup on the teeth will aggravate the tissues and lead to increased gingivitis.
Professional teeth cleanings and great oral hygiene at home are the way to fight pregnancy-induced gingivitis. Some of our pregnant patients even need to have professional teeth cleanings every three months instead of every six. (This condition usually does not continue after you have the baby, so the increased frequency of cleanings is temporary.)
How does Morning Sickness Affect my Teeth?
Morning sickness is consistent, severe nausea and/or vomiting that affects millions of women during pregnancy. For some, it only occurs during the first trimester, but some people experience it for the entire pregnancy. There are several health concerns associated with morning sickness, including dehydration and malnutrition. As dentists, of course we worry about your teeth.
The constant nausea and vomiting of morning sickness brings stomach acid up into the mouth. This acid is strong enough to dissolve tooth enamel in a process called erosion. Acid erosion can weaken the enamel making the teeth more likely to get cavities. It can also thin the enamel or dissolve it completely. In cases of severe erosion, dental treatment is necessary to replace the missing enamel.
If you suffer from severe morning sickness, you should speak to your dentist about preventive products and techniques that will help protect your teeth from the dangerous effects of stomach acid. Also, make sure that you are not adding even more acid to your teeth by drinking carbonated drinks between meals (yes, even sparkling water counts!).
Should I Have X-rays during Pregnancy?
Dental x-rays will not harm you or your baby during pregnancy. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists confirmed that dental x-rays during pregnancy are safe in an opinion stated in 2015 by their Committee on Health Care for Underserved Women. However, we only take x-rays on pregnant women when there is an indication of a dental problem. For this reason, your dentist will perform a thorough evaluation of your mouth first and then order any necessary x-rays. If he or she deems an x-ray necessary to diagnose and treat a serious dental problem, we will shield everything below your chin, including your baby bump, with an x-ray blocking lead apron.
The reason for taking x-rays during pregnancy is to determine whether a dental problem could reach emergency level before you have the baby. This could put both you and the baby in danger. For example, if your dentist sees a large cavity during his evaluation of your mouth, the x-ray provides detailed information that helps him determine the likelihood of an emergency and the timeframe for treatment.
What if I Need Dental Work during Pregnancy?
If you do have a dental problem that could worsen and put you at risk during pregnancy, then dental treatment is necessary to protect both you and your baby. There is no risk for danger to the baby from dental work, including the use of local anesthetic to numb your mouth, during the second and third trimester. In most cases, we will consult with your obstetrician to confirm your health and ability to tolerate dental treatment.
There is a small risk to the health of your baby with the use of laughing gas (nitrous oxide) and teeth whitening products. For this reason, we will steer you clear of those things until you are no longer pregnant. We will also approve any necessary prescription medications with your medical doctor. Your safety and the health of your baby are top priority!
More Questions about Dental Work and Pregnancy?
Are you pregnant? Is it time for you to see a dentist? Call your nearest Premier Dental of Ohio location today to schedule an evaluation and professional teeth cleaning with our wonderful Premier dentists and dental hygienists. We want to help you stay as healthy as possible throughout your pregnancy, which only happens with good dental care.