I want to give gentle advice as you experience your pregnancy. I know that you have a lot of doctor’s visits with your obstetrician and so much to think about! Is it necessary to be vigilant about seeing a dentist while pregnant? YES! The health of your mouth is an essential part of a healthy pregnancy.
Reports show that some women fear that their fetus could be harmed by dental treatment. Actually, a lack of necessary treatment is more likely to cause harm to your developing baby.
I want to assure you that dental care during pregnancy is safe for both you and your baby. Please read on to understand just how important it is and learn some tips to consider while pregnant.
- Hormonal changes experienced during pregnancy can cause swelling in your gums, bleeding gums, or other dental issues. It affects 60 to 75% of pregnant women. If left untreated, gingivitis (inflammation of your gums) can lead to a more severe infection in your gums and to the surrounding bone. Untreated periodontal disease can lead to tooth loss and bone loss.
- A mother with active tooth decay can spread bacteria to her unborn child. Did you know that your baby’s teeth will begin developing just three months into your pregnancy?
- Be sure you do not self-medicate to control pain during pregnancy. Pregnant women with dental pain may self-medicate inappropriately. Don’t take high doses or frequent doses of Tylenol for pain relief of dental infection. And certainly, do not take pain medication without speaking to your obstetrician/gynecologist.
- Will acid from morning sickness or acid reflux harm my teeth? Morning sickness is tough on a pregnant woman’s teeth. Stomach acid eats away at tooth enamel. If morning sickness is causing vomiting, I suggest mixing a teaspoon of baking soda in 1 cup of water. Rinse your mouth with this mixture after vomiting. This will help neutralize the acid. It will help to protect the tooth enamel. After rinsing your mouth with the combination of baking soda and water, delay tooth brushing for about an hour because brushing will expose the teeth to the stomach acids. Acid reflux, which some women experience later in pregnancy, has the same effect on teeth.
Some questions I have been asked regarding dental care for expectant mothers include the following:
- Is it safe to get x-rays while pregnant? Dental x-rays with lead shielding are considered safe during pregnancy by the American Dental Association and by The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Be sure that digital methods are used to take x-rays. Be sure protective lead aprons and thyroid collars are used. Even with lead apron precautions, it is best to wait for an x-ray until the second trimester unless necessary.
- What are pregnancy tumors in the mouth? The dental term is pyogenic granuloma. First, know that they are not malignant! They most often appear during the second trimester. They look a little like raspberries that form between the teeth. It occurs in approximately 5% of pregnancies. The “pregnancy tumors” usually regress after pregnancy without treatment.
- Does the fetus take calcium from its mother’s teeth? This is what many would refer to as “an old wive’s tale.” As mentioned before, during pregnancy many women experience hormonal gingivitis (inflammation and swelling of the gums), which causes the calcium loss in the teeth. The swollen gums collect bacteria which have acidic byproducts. This acid slowly burns the enamel and removes calcium in the process and ultimately can cause tooth decay. As mentioned before, morning sickness increases acidity too. So the fetus is not drawing calcium from the teeth. The presence of acid is the cause.
- How often should a pregnant woman see her dentist? It is best to see your dentist early in your pregnancy. Every three months is optimal during pregnancy and continue with this frequency until you are finished nursing. Why? The reason is that an increase in hormones can exaggerate how your gums react to plaque. Plaque leads to gingivitis. Frequent professional dental cleanings by your dental hygienist can minimize oral care difficulties during pregnancy. Your medical insurance (not dental insurance) may cover the cost of extra dental cleanings during pregnancy. In order to be as comfortable as possible while having dental treatment during pregnancy, ask your dentist and hygienist to keep your head at a higher level than your feet. If you sit in a semi-reclining position and frequently ask for a position change, you will likely be more comfortable. And, bring a small pillow to place under your right hip or turn slightly to the left as needed to avoid dizziness or nausea.
- It is difficult to brush my teeth. Do you have suggestions? Many women experience a stronger gag reflex during pregnancy. Some women feel brushing teeth is unpleasant. A bland toothpaste (with fluoride) may be necessary. And you can rinse your mouth with fluoridated non-alcoholic mouthwash.
- What do you suggest with regard to home care during pregnancy? I recommend a soft-bristled toothbrush especially for women who experience swelling, redness, or bleeding gums. Brush twice a day with fluoridated toothpaste. Floss daily because swelling can make it easier for bits of food to get stuck between teeth and behind the teeth. Be gentle while flossing because flossing can cause bleeding on already sensitive gums. It is also important to take in good sources of protein, calcium, and phosphorus for your baby’s developing bones, teeth, and gums. I recommend foods dense in nutrients such as legumes, vegetables particularly kale, and fruits such as blueberries. Learn more about eating nutrient-dense foods to get a lot of benefit for yourself and developing baby from every bite.
- Is it safe for a pregnant woman to have a root canal? Is it safe for a pregnant woman to have a tooth extracted? Yes!!! Delaying emergency treatment may result in more complex problems! Your oral health certainly can affect your baby’s health. It is far worse for you to have a serious infection during pregnancy. Local anesthetics for numbing areas in your mouth may be used during pregnancy. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists state that emergency treatment can be safely performed during pregnancy. The American Dental Association states that emergency care is safe at any stage during pregnancy.
I am happy to answer any questions you may have, whether you are a patient or not, if you send an email to doc@SilbermanDentalGroup.com. I offer consultations at no cost. If you live near Waldorf, Maryland, I invite you to schedule an appointment to see how our team and I give patients something to smile about! I look forward to welcoming you to The Silberman Dental Group.