Oral Health During Pregnancy
Maintaining good oral health is important for everyone regardless of age or life circumstances. Pregnant women, or those planning to become pregnant, are no exception. Oral health refers to healthy teeth, gums, and jawbones and plays a major role in the quality of life. According to the American Dental Association, it is important for a woman who is considering getting pregnant to schedule a dental assessment with their local dentist prior to becoming pregnant. Dentists want their patients to understand that it is important to take proper care of teeth and gums every day, but they require special attention while pregnant.
How Does Being Pregnant Affect Oral Health?
Many hormonal changes take place during a woman’s pregnancy that can have an effect on teeth and gums. The amount of harmful bacteria increases in the mouth during pregnancy. Dental plaque buildup increases causing gums to become sore and irritated. Women who suffer from morning sickness find that vomiting introduces acid into the mouth that may cause tooth enamel to erode over time. It is important to brush the teeth after each episode to rinse away this harmful acid. Brushing itself is problematic for some women because the smell and taste of toothpaste sometimes induces morning sickness. Pregnant women are especially vulnerable to serious gum disease. Changes in the diet early in pregnancy and reduced attention to proper mouth care can result in the serious gum disease gingivitis. Ignoring or postponing professional teeth cleaning may aggravate periodontal disease during pregnancy. Improper brushing and flossing can lead to tooth decay that needs immediate attention.
Do I need to Tell My Dentist I Am Pregnant?
It is important to tell your dentist you are pregnant before receiving any type of dental care. Pregnancy is a medical condition that the dentist needs to know about in order to keep medical records up-to-date and accurate. Most dental procedures can be performed without issues during pregnancy, but the dentist needs to be aware of your condition before making dental decisions. Pregnancy should have very little effect on routine dental visits, but the dentist may take extra precautions when taking X-rays or prescribing medication. Your dentist should always be informed about any medical condition that might have a detrimental effect on your dental well-being.
Is it Safe to do Dental Work during Pregnancy?
Being pregnant should not be a reason to eliminate having dental work done. Preventive dental work may even be more important for an expectant mother, who must try to avoid gum diseases and other infections during pregnancy. Many pregnant women are concerned about having X-rays taken at annual exams and question their safety. The truth is that a single diagnostic X-ray does not expose a person to enough radiation to cause any adverse effects, even in a pregnant patient. According to the American College of Radiology, dental X-rays are safe for a pregnant mother when appropriate shields are in place. The risk of developing a serious gum disease is a greater threat when dental exams are put on hold during pregnancy. All preventive dental work is highly recommended and safe for most pregnant women. Most dentists advise avoiding elective dental procedures such as teeth whitening during pregnancy. In order to avoid any adverse effect on the developing baby during dental work, dentists choose to use the smallest amount of anesthesia. Certain antibiotics are considered safe to use to prevent infections in pregnant women. Penicillin and clindamycin are two of the most common medications that can be taken safely during pregnancy.
Dental Guidelines for Pregnant Patients
A normal pregnancy does not preclude routine dental work in most cases. According to the American Dental Association, preventive dental maintenance and annual exams are recommended during pregnancy. These essential dental exams can spot infections or gum diseases before they become a problem. Failing to practice good dental hygiene during pregnancy can cause damage to the teeth and contribute the onset of gum disease. Problems should be treated in a timely manner, especially advanced tooth decay. If extensive dental work is required during pregnancy, it is best to wait until the second trimester. To be completely safe, any unnecessary procedures should not be completed until after the baby is born, unless pain is causing stress for the mother and baby. Sometimes a root canal or a badly damaged tooth cannot wait and are considered emergencies.
Pregnancy & Oral Care: The Basics
- Continue dental checkups to have teeth checked and professionally cleaned on a periodic basis. Have needed dental work done
- Maintain a healthy diet and eat calcium-rich foods. Avoid sugary drinks and snacks. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Eliminate most starchy foods
- Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration during pregnancy. Drinking water and eating ice chips can help relieve morning sickness and prevent vomiting that can cause acid in the mouth
- Brush and floss teeth at least twice a day to prevent cavities and gum disease
- Pregnancy is a Good Motivator to Begin Practicing a Healthy Lifestyle
Being pregnant is both scary and exciting. When a woman becomes pregnant, her primary focus becomes staying healthy and giving birth to a healthy child. Her physical, mental, and dental conditions become especially important. A pregnant woman who neglects to address dental issues is putting herself and her unborn child at risk. Unfortunately, it is estimated that more than 50 percent of pregnant women do not see a dentist during pregnancy. Women who do practice good dental hygiene during pregnancy are reducing the risk of premature birth and ensuring a healthier baby with a healthy mother.
If you are pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant, and have questions that remain unanswered, contact our Port Washington dental office today and speak with one of our helpful team members today.