There are many physiological changes that occur to women when they become pregnant, so why should one’s teeth and mouth be any different? Most dental treatments can be performed as usual during pregnancy, and in fact, certain oral health issues may occur when a woman is pregnant that will need to be addressed. With some modification of dental treatment to protect the fetus, such as careful administration of drugs or ionizing radiation, dental care is highly recommended. It is very important for the health of the mother — and of her baby. Here are some dental hygiene tips for pregnant women.
Dental Problems That May Occur During Pregnancy
Complications may occur during pregnancy which usually go away after the birth of the child, but they can continue if not treated right away. Hormonal changes can affect mood, attitude and tolerance levels, so extra care should be taken to avoid anything that might affect the fetus, particularly in the first and last trimester. Some of these conditions are:
- Pregnancy Gingivitis is the most common. The gums may become sore and are more likely to bleed.
- Pregnancy Tumor (Pyogenic Granuloma) is a local growth that appears on the gums.
- Dry Mouth can also occur, though women might also have an issue with excessive saliva.
- Tooth Erosion occurs when the tooth enamel begins to wear off due to frequent vomiting from morning sickness.
- Dental Decay is due to changes in the woman’s saliva and its buffering effect on acids, which can cause caries.
Help! I’m Too Sick to Brush My Teeth!
How do you brush your teeth if you’re experiencing morning sickness? It’s definitely a challenge, but it’s very important, as a pregnant woman is more susceptible to decayed teeth. There are certain strategies that might help. The most obvious one is to brush when you don’t feel nauseous. You can also try changing your toothpaste or just using less of it (or no toothpaste at all). Try using a toothbrush with a small head, and begin with the insides of your teeth. Facing downward while you brush may help to reduce your nausea. You can also try using toothpaste tablets, floss or mouthwash, if that’s easier and less unpleasant. A little creativity goes a long way!
What Should Your Dentist Do If You’re Pregnant?
Visiting the dentist for a cleaning and examination during your pregnancy is perfectly safe and recommended. Hormonal changes may cause your gums to swell, trapping food and causing irritation and even bleeding. Preventative care is essential in avoiding serious oral infections like gum disease, which may even lead to a preterm birth.
Your dentist or dental surgeon should, if necessary:
- Assess and manage tooth decay risk
- Perform complete periodontal and gingival exams
- Clean teeth thoroughly
- Try to decrease bacterial load that can cause maternal caries
- Control plaque with fluoride toothpaste, mouth wash, dental floss and sugar free gum
- Perform a root canal treatment if there’s a painful or infected tooth
- Consider surgical treatments, although it is best to avoid them in the mid-trimester
- Avoid the supine position and keep appointments brief to minimize discomfort
- Postpone cosmetic procedures (such as teeth whitening) until after childbirth
Is It OK to Have a Tooth X-Ray While You’re Pregnant?
While some people may be wary of X-rays during pregnancy, the American College of Radiology states that a single diagnostic X-ray does not produce significant radiation as to pose a risk to the developing fetus. Dental X-rays are directed at the mouth rather than the abdomen and therefore, there’s minimal exposure. Using a thyroid shield and apron (and dosimeters and other controls for pregnant hygienists) further reduces the risk and is recommended by the American Dental Association. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) should be avoided during the first trimester.
Can a Local Anesthesia Be Used During Pregnancy?
It is safe to use local anesthesia for dental procedures during the second trimester, although any unnecessary drugs should not be used. The amount of anesthesia may need to be adjusted for pregnancy. Since women might be unaware of a pregnancy during the early part of their first trimester, those of childbearing age should avoid taking drugs unless necessary.
Expectant Mothers and Dental Health
It is important for expectant mothers to understand how critical dental care is during pregnancy, and to be reassured that preventative practices, diagnoses and treatments are safe. This includes dental X-rays that are done with shielding. This information should help pregnant women to be more relaxed and at ease when caring for their dental health.