There are many misconceptions and conflicting ideas surrounding pregnancy and dental care. Some advocate that pregnant women avoid the dental office, dental treatment, and x-rays, while others see it as necessary to promote the health of the mother and fetus. Hopefully, this blog can help set the record straight.
First, we will discuss dental cleanings. During pregnancy, a woman’s body is experiencing a lot of hormonal changes, resulting in an exaggerated inflammatory response to bacteria in your mouth. The reaction can cause mild gum disease (gingivitis), or even around growth on your gums called a pyogenic granuloma. It is important to note that pyogenic granulomas (also called pregnancy tumors), although concerning in appearance, will be eliminated with excellent oral hygiene and normalizing hormone levels.
If gingivitis is left untreated, it can progress into a more moderate or severe gum disease called periodontitis. Studies have linked pre-term, low birth weight babies to mothers with active periodontal disease, so it is vital to keep a healthy mouth throughout pregnancy.
The lesson here is that oral health is extremely important to both the mother and the unborn child. The good news is that brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, flossing daily, and keeping your regularly scheduled dental cleanings will go a long way to keeping your mouth in ship shape.
In addition to inflamed gums, many expectant mothers also experience morning sickness and pregnancy cravings. Vomit is extremely acidic and some cravings may involve unhealthy items, increasing the woman’s risk for tooth erosion and decay. This increased risk can make x-rays a necessity, especially if there is pain or infection present.
It is important to note that the extremely low radiation dose required for digital imaging and the mandatory use of lead aprons make dental x-rays safe at any point during the pregnancy. With that said, I have always made it a point to discuss the pros and cons of taking x-rays with each mother-to-be. For someone with no history of dental disease or very low risk for tooth decay, we may elect to postpone radiographs until another visit.
Fillings, Crowns, and Other Dental Work
Having dental treatment completed during pregnancy is safe in any trimester. Fillings, crowns, root canals, and tooth removal all are fine to be completed. The preferred timing for dental work is during the second trimester of pregnancy, as it offers the best balance of safety and comfort for the mother and unborn child. In the case of a dental emergency or other complication, though, it may be necessary for treatment to be completed in the first or third trimester. Maintaining excellent oral hygiene and staying up-to-date on your cleanings will help eliminate the risk for these types of issues.