- Pregnancy can change your oral health, so be sure to know the risks and oral care options
- Your oral health during pregnancy needs to be routinely checked by you and your dentist
- The health of your baby relies on your oral health decisions before and after their birth
Pregnancy is an exciting time. Going to your prenatal visits, touring hospitals, and interviewing pediatricians are just a few activities that keep you busy! Fitting a dental appointment into your already cramped schedule may be the last thing on your list, but visiting a dentist while pregnant could help prevent prematurity and other negative birth outcomes. Dental treatments with a baby on board are not only safe but are important for your health and the health of your unborn baby.
So, Is It Really Safe to Go to the Dentist While Pregnant?
The short answer, yes! You should let your dentist know that you are pregnant and continue to see him or her for your dental cleanings, fillings, or root canals. These procedures are completely safe and can be completed at any time during your pregnancy. A 2015 study found that using anesthesia like lidocaine during dental procedures did not put pregnant women at increased risk for miscarriages, birth defects, prematurity or impact the weight of the baby. If you are tempted to wait to get your x-ray until after giving birth, don’t. Dental x-rays are safe, and the baby’s exposure to radiation is minimized by putting on the appropriate protective apron and collar during the procedures.
What Are Some Common Oral Health Problems That Happen During Pregnancy?
Pregnancy brings about many new and sometimes unexpected physical changes to your body, teeth, and gums. Having a sudden and dramatic increase in hormones makes it more likely that you may develop unpleasant oral health conditions. These include:
Your sugary cravings and a relaxed oral health care routine create more plaque (a sticky film of bacteria) on your teeth. Plaque converts the left-over sugar and starch in your mouth to an acid that attacks your teeth’s enamel which eventually causes cavities.
Your changing hormones also put you at risk for gingivitis – an infection which causes redness, swelling, and inflammation of your gums. This infection is experienced by 60% to 75% of women during pregnancy.
- Tender gums
- Red swollen gums
- Bleeding of the gums, even when brushing gently
- Shiny gums
If left untreated, this infection can cause problems with the bones that support your teeth.
Morning sickness is common when you’re expecting, but nausea and vomiting from pregnancy may unintentionally expose your teeth to a large amount of stomach acid, which can damage your teeth’s enamel, putting you at greater risk for cavities
It’s important to call your dentist right away about any changes happening in your mouth like pain or swelling. If you think you have an infection, schedule an appointment as soon as possible with your dentist to be treated.
How Does My Oral Health Affect My Baby’s Health?
You may be surprised to hear that the health of your teeth and gums is connected to the health of your unborn baby. Severe gum disease causes bacteria to end up in your bloodstream, which can result in premature labor. Having bacteria in your bloodstream is a serious condition that requires immediate treatment. Having severe gum disease has also been associated with poor pregnancy outcomes like preterm birth and low birth weight babies.
When your baby arrives, you can pass the bad bacteria from your mouth to your baby’s mouth and increase their likelihood of getting cavities too.
What Should I Do to Take Care of My Teeth During My Pregnancy?
As an expectant mom, there are many simple steps you can take to maintain your oral health while also taking action to reduce future dental complications for your baby.
These steps include:
- Brushing your teeth with a fluoride toothpaste at least twice a day and after each meal if possible, to remove plaque and help keep your teeth and gums healthy
- Rinse your mouth with a mixture of baking soda and water to reduce the amount of acid in your mouth after vomiting instead of brushing your teeth, which is not recommended
- Flossing once a day to help remove the plaque between your teeth
- Eating a healthy diet of fruits, vegetables, lean meat, whole-grain breads and pasta, and low-fat dairy products
- Limiting the amount of sweet and sugary foods you eat
- Drinking water to help wash away leftover food and residue that causes bacteria
- Visiting your dentist for a checkup every 6 months even when you are pregnant
Protecting Baby’s Health
Taking care of your teeth and gums improves your baby’s well-being even before you give birth. By practicing good oral hygiene and visiting your dentist during your pregnancy, you can help ensure a lifetime of good health for yourself and your little one.
- Brushing for two: how your oral health affects baby, American Academy of Pediatrics
- Give your baby the best possible start, American Academy of Pediatrics
- Gingivitis, American Dental Association
- Is It safe to go to the dentist during pregnancy, American Dental Association
- Oral health topics, American Dental Association
- Oral health during pregnancy, American Dental Association
- Oral health and pregnancy, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Dental health during pregnancy, March of Dimes
- Oral health during pregnancy, American Family Physicians