The physical changes experienced during pregnancy, especially the rise in hormone levels, can lead to damage of the teeth and gums. As a result, many expectant mothers find themselves in need of dental work during their pregnancy. Because expectant mothers must be concerned about the impact that their activities have on their babies, they worry about the safety of dental work performed while they are pregnant. Dr. Trinh Phan of Anew Dental says “Generally speaking, the risk associated with with having dental work done during pregnancy is nominal while the risks associated with forgoing needed dental care can pose serious risks.”
Preventative Dental Services During Pregnancy: Preventative dental services such as cleanings and exams are not only safe during pregnancy but also recommended by both dentists and doctors. One of the most common physical changes experienced during pregnancy is the inflammation of the gums caused by rising hormone levels. This swelling can cause the gums to bleed and create pockets that trap food particles. These can lead to the introduction of bacteria into the gums and the soft tissue around the teeth and can result in potentially dangerous infections that can impact the development of a baby. More serious cases of gum disease have been linked to premature birth. A professional cleaning by your dentist will help prevent these infections.
Restorative and Other Dental Work During Pregnancy: While most expectant mothers can easily appreciate the need for cleanings and exams, most remain justifiably concerned about the safety of other, more invasive dental procedures. For most, the understandable reaction is to put off non-emergency dental treatments such as fillings, root canals, crowns, and extractions until after birth. This may be understandable but it is not correct. Most dental procedures can be safely performed during pregnancy and are recommended because they greatly reduce the threat of potentially dangerous oral infection posed by untreated tooth decay. When practicable, dental work should be performed during the second trimester. During the first trimester, fetal organ development takes place so all non-emergency medical treatments, including dental work should be avoided during this time. By the third trimester, most women find it very uncomfortable and difficult to lay in a dental chair for the extended periods necessary to have dental procedures performed. Although dental treatments pose minimal risk to unborn babies, expectant mothers are advised to put off elective dental procedures, such as teeth whitening and cosmetic treatments, until after giving birth. Similarly, if you have any known pregnancy risks that indicate foregoing dental treatments, you should postpone any non-emergency dental procedures. As always, you should always seek the advise of your doctor before any dental procedures are performed or any medication is administered.
Dental Medications During Pregnancy: The safety of the medications used during dental procedures is not as clear as the safety of the procedures themselves. Conflicting conclusions regarding the possible adverse effects on developing babies from medications used during dental treatment have been reached by researchers. This lack of consensus should not discourage expectant mothers from receiving the dental care they need. The most commonly used dental anesthesia, Lidocaine, does not cross the placenta and thus does not have a negative impact on the developing baby. As always, as little anesthesia as needed to keep you comfortable should be administered. If you begin to experience pain during a procedure ask for additional anesthesia. Remember, the more comfortable you are the less stress you and your baby experience. More often than not, needed dental work will require antibiotics to treat infections associated with tooth decay. Category B antibiotics such as penicillin, clindamycin and amoxicillin are safe for use during pregnancy and can be prescribed before or after dental treatment. Again, always check with your doctor before taking any medications.
Dental X-rays During Pregnancy: Due to the risks of exposure to radiation, the best advise for expectant mothers is to avoid all x-rays while pregnant. This is no problem for the routine non-essential x-rays that are taken during annual exams and can be safely postponed until after giving birth. But sometimes an x-ray is essential for a dental treatment or dental emergency that cannot be put off until after the baby is born. In that event, expectant mothers should not worry too much as advances in x-ray technology, especially in digital x-radiography, have made x-rays much safer than in the past. After reviewing available research, the American College of Radiology has concluded that the radiation exposure associated with a diagnostic dental x-ray is too little to cause adverse effects in a developing babies. Although he radiation dose is low, your dentist will still take every precaution to minimize exposure during your x-ray, including the use of a leaded apron to cover your chest and a leaded thyroid collar to cover your neck.
Let Your Dentist Know That You Are Pregnant: Whatever your reason for seeing your dentist, whether a simple check up or a more involved dental procedure, make sure your dentist knows that you are pregnant. While most dental procedures are safe during pregnancy, your dentist will take added precautions to make your treatments as safe as possible. Make sure your dentist knows the stage of your pregnancy as treatments should be avoided during the first trimester and second half of the third trimester which are the most critical periods in fetal growth and development. Also make sure your dentist knows the names and dosages of any prescription or non-prescription medications you are taking, including prenatal vitamins. This information may indicate a need for a modification of your dental treatment.
…and if you have a retainer sitting on the side of your bed, keep the cat away from it. See this CNN video.
While the physical changes experienced during pregnancy pose a threat to the health of your teeth and gums, you can minimize the damage. First, practice good home oral hygiene by brushing three times per day, flossing daily, and using a bacteria killing mouthwash. Second, because preventative dental care is more especially important when expecting, see your dentists for regular cleanings and exams during your pregnancy. Finally, most restorative dental work, like fillings and root canals, are safe during pregnancy so do not put off dental work recommended by your dentist just because you are pregnant.
By: Dr. Trinh Pham