Pregnancy is a life-altering experience. With the anticipation of a lifetime of adventure, the joys and efforts of bringing a new human being into this world, a woman has a lot to do before the arrival. So pregnancy can be a very busy period, with all the appointments to the doctor and getting all the arrangements done for the baby. It is also a very hormonal period and can be physically and emotionally challenging. So if you are pregnant, visiting your dentist can be the last thing on your mind. But did you know that your dental health can impact your labor as well as the oral health of your unborn baby? Let’s find out what you need to know about dental visits while you are pregnant.
Why is your dental health important during pregnancy?
Research studies have established a link between gum disease during pregnancy and premature birth, low birth weight in babies or even preeclampsia, which is an uncommon but life-threatening condition. Premature birth comes with a host of problems associated with cognitive and physical health. Hence treating periodontal disease while you are pregnant will help you and your baby. So don’t put off going to the dentist.
How does pregnancy affect your mouth?
When you are pregnant your hormones are in an altered state. This makes you prone to a host of oral conditions.
Hormones during pregnancy alter the response of gums to plaque giving rise to gum problems. Gingivitis, which is inflammation of the gums, is very common. Gums swell and bleed easily, get irritated, even during brushing and flossing. Existing periodontal (gum) disease can get worse during pregnancy. Gum disease can lead to bone loss, gum recession and mobility in teeth which can ultimately if left untreated cause loss of teeth.
A localized growth of gums, called pregnancy epulis or pyogenic granuloma is a result of the hyper response of gums tissue to plaque due to pregnancy hormones. It has a red, raw appearance and bleeds easily. Deep professional dental cleaning should be done to minimize plaque. Typically it subsides on its own after childbirth, but sometimes excision is needed.
Vomiting or reflux of food or drink is a common occurrence during morning sickness. Frequent vomiting and regurgitation bring teeth in constant contact with acid from the stomach which can weaken the tooth enamel, increasing the risk of decay.
During pregnancy, some women find it difficult to tolerate the feel of toothbrush in their mouth, especially the back teeth as it can induce a feeling of gagging or retching. So they avoid regular brushing or make it a quick process. However, this puts them at high risk for cavities. Add to this the fact that some women crave for sweets and refined carbohydrates, which further makes them vulnerable to cavities.
So it best to get your gums and teeth checked if you are planning to get pregnant.
Is it safe to get dental work done during pregnancy?
Yes, it is absolutely safe and in fact, recommended to get a routine checkup and professional dental cleaning is done while you are pregnant. In fact, if you suffer from gum disease it is best to get it under control through scaling and root planning during pregnancy.
You must tell your dentist that you are pregnant as there are certain procedures that should not be done during pregnancy.
Dental work that treats cavities, decreases infection and eliminates pain should be done during pregnancy like cavity fillings, crowns, root canal or tooth extraction, etc. It is better to take care of painful teeth during pregnancy as the pain can induce pre-term labor.
The second trimester is ideal for such treatment as this is when morning sickness is less and pregnant women are able to lie on their back for an extended period of time, which is not the case in the third trimester.
While getting your dental work done, always sit in the dental chair with your legs straight and uncrossed. This helps to retain good blood circulation. You can ask your dentist for a pillow to support your lower back, or else you can carry your own to keep you comfortable throughout treatment. Try to stay calm and positive and listen to your favorite music.
Local anesthesia and other medicines associated with dental treatment
Local anesthesia, which most commonly contains, lidocaine crosses the placenta. So if dental work requires anesthesia, the least amount that is enough to make you feel comfortable and pain-free should be used. It is important that you not feel pain so if you are experiencing pain you can ask your dentist to administer more.
If suffering from an infection, you might be prescribed antibiotics such as amoxicillin, penicillin, and clindamycin which are safe during pregnancy.
Dental X-rays during pregnancy
It is best to have X-rays taken only if they are necessary or else leave them for after delivery. But in case of an emergency root canal or tooth extraction, X-rays become necessary.
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and American Dental Association (ADA), dental X-rays taken with shielding of the abdomen and thyroid gland are safe during pregnancy.
All dental treatment that is not of emergency nature should be postponed until after your baby’s birth to avoid the danger of premature labor.
Elective Dental work
It’s best to schedule all elective dental procedures like cosmetic dental work, teeth whitening including at-home teeth whitening, the start of orthodontic treatment only after childbirth.
Dental specialists at Signature Smiles clinic in Mumbai are excellent at providing dental care to women during pregnancy. Be assured that you will be treated in a warm and caring manner.