Pregnancy is a time for many healthcare visits. While it’s tempting to skip the dentist, that’s one appointment you shouldn’t put off.
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Why? “Pregnancy puts you at risk for dental problems, so it’s important to continue getting oral care,” says Ob/Gyn Julian Peskin, MD.
In this Q&A, he answers some common questions about pregnancy and oral health.
Q. How does pregnancy increase my risk for dental problems?
A. As most pregnant women realize, pregnancy ramps up hormones. And that increased hormone load can cause your gums to swell. Swollen gums can trap food and result in gum disease or infection.
The other hormone-driven concern is morning sickness. When you vomit, the acid that comes up from the stomach can eat away at tooth enamel. Morning sickness can also make you less likely to brush your teeth, because the gag reflex and nausea are so strong. Without proper dental hygiene, your oral health is in jeopardy.
Q. Are there risks to my pregnancy if I don’t see the dentist?
A. Severe periodontal disease can result in potential complications to your pregnancy. Many studies link periodontal disease to:
- Intrauterine growth restriction, which is when the unborn baby doesn’t grow as expected.
- Preeclampsia during pregnancy, which often results in pre-term births.
We believe that gum disease results in bacteria getting into your bloodstream and causing an inflammatory response in the body. Proper dental care can stop this process from starting.
Q. Should I seek dental care during pregnancy?
A. The benefits of seeing a dentist far outweigh the risks. If you need:
- Routine care: If you’re getting an X-ray, let your dentist know you’re pregnant. They will use a lead apron to protect your developing fetus and your thyroid.
- Fillings or extractions: There is no risk to these procedures. Local anesthetics are safe in pregnancy.
- Considerable dental work: It’s probably best to do it in the second or third trimester when you aren’t experiencing as much nausea, vomiting or gag reflex.
Q. Is it safe to have dental work done while pregnant?
A. Some procedures can’t wait, like treatment for an abscess. And the good news is, you don’t have to wait. It’s perfectly fine to have gum surgery or other major dental work performed during pregnancy.
Just alert your dentist so they can choose an antibiotic that is safe during pregnancy. Dentists will avoid prescribing tetracycline, which can stain your fetus’s teeth.
Q. What should my oral care regimen look like during pregnancy?
A. The keys to good oral health are the same whether or not you’re pregnant. Brush twice a day with fluoridated toothpaste and continue to floss. You can also use a fluoridated mouthwash that doesn’t contain alcohol.
If you experience vomiting during pregnancy, protect your teeth by rinsing with a solution of water plus one teaspoon of baking soda. And if morning sickness makes you want to retch when brushing, ask your dentist for a bland-tasting toothpaste.
Q. What are some tips for keeping my teeth and gums healthy?
A. Continue to see your dentist for routine care every six months. Plus, eat a healthy, balanced diet that includes these vitamins and minerals:
- Vitamins A, C and D.
Start your baby’s oral hygiene now! A baby’s first teeth begin to develop about three months into your pregnancy. Diets containing dairy products, such as cheese and yogurt, provide essential minerals and are good for your baby’s developing teeth, gums and bones.