Pregnancy and Oral Health

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, dental care is considered safe during pregnancy. The Dentist may consult and work with your Obstetrician when planning extensive treatment, but cleanings, exams, fillings and routine dental treatment can usually be carried out without incident or need for consultation. Local anesthetics can be used safely during pregnancy, along with some antibiotics if or when indicated. X-rays are also considered safe when a protective cover is used over the abdomen and throat. In summary, it’s important and safe to maintain your routine dental appointments during pregnancy. If you are having dental pain during pregnancy, consult with your Obstetrician, but usually short term Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is OK, while Advil and other Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatories are not recommended or safe in the third trimester.

GUM PROBLEMS Changes in a woman’s hormones during pregnancy may put her at increased risk of developing gum problems. The gums may swell or bleed easily when brushing or flossing. We refer to this condition as Pregnancy Induced Gingivitis, and some extra effort in caring for the teeth at home usually helps prevent this problem:

  • Brush at least twice a day for 2 minutes with a fluoride containing toothpaste;
  • Clean between your teeth once a day with dental floss, a water pick or another interdental cleaner.

Left untreated, gingivitis or inflammation of the gums can lead to periodontitis (loss of bone around the teeth). Periodontitis affects the gum and bone that holds your teeth in place. It can spread from one part of your mouth, to other sites and require additional future dental treatment. Another gum problem that may occur during pregnancy is the development of small lumps along the gumline. Pyogenic Granulomas or ‘Pregnancy Tumors’ are swollen, red, shiny lumps that grow along the edges of the gums. Although generally harmless; they can make the cleaning of your teeth more difficult and are unfortunately not very attractive. There are available treatment options if needed, but they do typically disappear on their own after the baby is born.

DENTAL EROSION Some pregnant women may experience repeated nausea. If this problem persists and results in regular sickness or vomiting; the result may be increased stomach acid in the mouth which can soften and wear down or erode the enamel or outer layer of the teeth. To help reduce the risk of erosion or loss of the enamel; women should brush their teeth immediately after sickness or vomiting. A fluoride rinse may also help reduce erosion. Another option would be to rinse with a diluted solution of 1 cup of water and 1 teaspoon of baking soda to neutralize the acid buildup that may be in the mouth or on the teeth.

WHEN TO SCHEDULE YOUR APPOINTMENT Although dental treatment is safe at any time during pregnancy, you might be most comfortable during your second trimester. Nausea and vomiting are typically more common during the first trimester, which could make your dental visit less comfortable. In the third trimester, the weight of the baby may cause you to be less comfortable or even lightheaded during your time in the dental chair; which can be addressed by changing your position or taking some breaks and moving around a little more. If you are planning on adding on to your family and have existing dental needs or concern, it would be in your and the baby’s best interest to address your oral health issues before becoming pregnant.

Professional dental care is considered safe and important during pregnancy. Daily care at home remains critical in maintaining healthy gums and teeth through the pregnancy. Maintaining a healthy mouth during and after pregnancy also decreases the likelihood of transmitting disease causing oral bacteria to the baby after they are born.