If you’re pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant, there are a few things you should know about your dental care. With the many doctor visits, budget talks and preparations that occur during pregnancy, your dental care may not be the first thing you consider when preparing for your baby’s arrival, but it is very important.
The condition of your teeth can affect your baby. And, conversely, the baby can affect your teeth. Therefore, it’s critical that you follow these steps in maintaining good oral hygiene before, during and after your pregnancy.
If you are planning to become pregnant, make a dental appointment before it happens. At the appointment, talk to your dentist about having your teeth cleaned, your gum tissue examined and any oral health problems taken care of. You’ll want to prevent any major dental treatments while you’re pregnant. These treatments are doable but certainly not ideal.
Communicate with Your Dentist
The first step to taking care of your teeth during pregnancy is making sure your dentist knows you’re pregnant. It’s important they know this so they can take the proper precautions for treating you.
Another critical step is providing your dentist with the names of what you are taking, including any prenatal vitamins, so your dentist will not use anything during dental work that could conflict with those things.
When Is It Safe?
Many question the safety of dental care for pregnant women. Routine dental care is, however, very safe as long as your dentist knows that you are pregnant. It would be more risky not to seek dental care during this time due to your increased vulnerability for dental diseases and infections while pregnant.
But while it is safe to receive dental care during your pregnancy, there are certain times you should avoid it. Your first trimester and the second half of your third trimester are two such times that dental care should be avoided. These stages of your pregnancy are critical to your baby’s growth and development. The best time to seek care is during your second trimester. Dental procedures that are not an emergency should be postponed until after you deliver.
Something else to consider when pregnant is that your hormone levels increase during pregnancy, causing your gums to swell. Continuing to visit your dentist regularly can help prevent oral infections from developing in your mouth. This is important because certain infections, such as gum disease (also called periodontitis), have been connected to preterm labor.
Preterm labor can be caused by increased hormone levels and inflammatory molecules in the bloodstream as a result of inflammation. Because pregnant women have an increased risk for gum disease (inflamed gums), prevention is especially important.
Routine dental work, such as fillings and crowns, should be treated while pregnant to reduce your chance of infection. This work should be done during the second trimester. In the third trimester, it may be extremely difficult for you to lie on your back for the amount of time needed to perform this work.
Other dental work should be postponed until after the birth unless it is a dental emergency, like a root canal or tooth extraction.
An important topic of concern for pregnant women undergoing dental work is anesthesia. If dental work is required, the anesthetics administered should be minimal. Although anesthetics dentists use are safe, you can take extra precaution by having them use as little as possible on you. With minimal anesthesia, you can request additional numbing during dental work if you experience pain. Keep in mind, you want to be comfortable enough so the stress on you and your baby is reduced but not given too much for the sake of your baby. Too much anesthetic could be harmful for your baby.
After your dental work, your dentist may recommend something to help treat or prevent infections. Penicillin, clindamycin and amoxicillin are commonly recommended to pregnant women after dental work because they are labeled category B for safety. This means they did not demonstrate a risk to the fetus in any trimester and are deemed safe to use.
X-rays can usually be postponed until after the birth unless you need to undergo an emergency dental procedure. In this case, x-rays are necessary. Your dentist will use extra caution when administering your x-rays though so he/she can protect you and your baby. It is important to point out that technology has made x-rays much safer to use in the past decades. Your dentist will likely use a lead apron on you if you do need an x-ray, which will protect you and the baby.
However, it is best to avoid even emergency x-rays, if possible, during your first trimester since that is a critical time in your baby’s organ development.
Apart from the typical “brush your teeth twice a day and floss at least once a day” routine, women who are pregnant need to take extra steps at maintaining good oral hygiene based upon some of the common side effects of pregnancy. These might include:
- Morning Sickness. Sometimes morning sickness can keep women from brushing their teeth because of the taste of their toothpaste. In this case, dentists recommend changing to a bland-tasting toothpaste. This will help you continue this important daily routine without being so miserable. Your dentist or hygienist can recommend some good brands to try or you could buy some different brands at the store in the travel-size tubes and see which ones work best for you. Also, you’ll want to rinse your mouth out with water or a mouth rinse after suffering from morning sickness to make sure your mouth and teeth are clean.
- Eat Right. Your doctor has probably already given you this recommendation, but your dentist might offer it, too. When pregnant, avoid sugary sweets (as hard as that may be) and eat a healthy, balanced diet. Although you may not think about this when your baby is developing, he/she actually begins developing their first teeth about three months into your pregnancy. By eating a healthy diet of dairy products, cheese and yogurt, for example, you can help in the development of your baby’s teeth, gums and bones.
Other Tips for Trips to the Dental Office
- Take a pillow with you to the dentist office to help keep you and your baby more comfortable.
- Bringing some of your favorite music and your headphones can also help you feel more comfortable.
- Refrain from crossing your legs when you’re in the dentist’s chair. This will maintain healthy circulation, as this is a common problem throughout pregnancy.
- Although these have been mentioned above, make sure you eat a balanced diet, brush your teeth with an ADA (American Dental Association) approved fluoride toothpaste twice a day and floss on a daily basis.
Once you have delivered and you finally have that bundle of joy in your arms, you’ll want to revisit your dentist to make sure you do not have any signs of gum disease. If you experienced gum problems while you were pregnant, you may be at greater risk of this.
How are you maintaining good oral hygiene during your pregnancy? Did any of these steps listed surprise you?