Expecting moms tend to question dental visits due to the fear of the baby’s safety. But what most pregnant women don’t know is that appropriate dental care leads to an improved pregnancy and enhances the development and well-being of the baby. Here is a guide to oral care during pregnancy.
Taking care of your teeth and gums at all stages of your life is eminent – including the time you are expecting. During pregnancy, the hormonal changes raise the risks of gum diseases, which lead to harmful affects for the baby. So if you are busy with hospital trips, and setting the new nursery, don’t keep visiting the dentist off of your to-do list.
Getting a checkup while you are pregnant is vital and perfectly safe. Furthermore, cleanings, tooth extractions, cavity filings, crowns, or root canals are dental treatments that can be performed safely on expecting mothers. A routine dental care is safe and can be done any time during pregnancy. Getting any dental care treatment is ideal during the second trimester, as during the third trimester, it becomes difficult for pregnant women to lie still on their back for an extended period of time.
The American Dental Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists encourage pregnant women to get dental care as it is a crucial period of their lives, and preventive oral care will aid in the overall health of the woman. As the hormones of a pregnant women are at a rise in this important part of their lives, the gums tend to swell up leading to bleeding and difficulty in chewing, leading to irritation in the mouth. A condition known as “pregnancy gingivitis”, in which the gums are inflamed in a woman can be caused by hormonal changes. “Pregnancy tumors” appear in pregnancy too during the second trimester, in which there is an overgrowth of tissue. In addition, pregnant women are prone to increased risks of tooth decay as well as morning sickness leads to a boost of acid in the mouth, which eats away the enamel of the tooth. According to research, oral disease in pregnancy has been linked to health problems such as heart diseases, diabetes, premature and low-weight babies. Thus, preventive dental care is essential so as to avoid oral infections and gum diseases – both of which are linked to preterm birth.
On the other hand, elective treatments, such as cosmetic procedures and teeth whitening, should be postponed until after the baby’s birth. It is best to avoid exposing the baby’s development to any risks, despite it being minimal.
As far as the medications used during dental treatments are concerned, there have been conflicting studies on the adverse effects it has on the developing baby. A common drug used for dental work is Lidocaine (category B), which does cross the placenta. Such medications need to be administered. Anesthesia should be administered as well, but it can be used to make the patient comfortable and reduce the stress level that can harm the baby. Antibiotics used for treating infections such as amoxicillin, penicillin, and clindamycin that have been labeled as category B are safe to use in pregnancy. X-rays should be delayed until after the birth, to avoid the risk of premature birth. However, if a necessary x-ray is required for preforming any dental procedure in an emergency, it can be done, as according to the American College of Radiology (ACOG) and American Dental Association (ADA), the radiations of the x-ray has no adverse effect on the developing fetus or embryo. The dentist should use extreme caution during the x-ray and cover the abdomen and thyroid from exposure to the radiation with the help of a leaded apron and leaded collar.
Getting a dental checkup or treatment is therefore, not just safe, but also recommended for pregnant women. A dentist can help guide you if you are facing any pregnancy-related dental problems.
Important dental care tips to follow during pregnancy:
- According to the ADA, pregnant women should maintain a healthy and balanced diet. They should brush their teeth twice a day with an ADA-approved fluoride toothpaste, and floss once a day. Also, with the recommendation of the dentist, a fluoridated mouthwash should be used every night.
- Get a dental checkup and preventive exam during their pregnancy. Cleanings are vital as well.
- Inform the dentist they are pregnant. They must tell how far along they are. Inform them about all the medications and prenatal vitamins they are taking and any medical advice given to them by their doctor. The dentist should be told about a high-risk pregnancy or any other medical condition the patient has.
- Delay the elective procedures till after the delivery.
- Postpone any non-emergency dental work till the second trimester or post-birth, if possible.
- Keep the legs uncrossed while sitting in the dentist’s chair to allow healthy blood circulation. Keep a pillow as well behind the back to remain comfortable.
- Eating a healthy diet is vital for pregnant women. Nutrients like vitamin A, C, and D, calcium, proteins, and phosphorous. But foods low in sugar should be consumed, like cheese, yogurt, raw fruits and vegetables, to avoid tooth decay.
- Mix a teaspoon of baking soda with water to rinse the mouth with after vomiting and morning sickness.