When you are pregnant, one of the last things you may be thinking about is your dental health. However, like every other part of a pregnant woman’s health, dental problems can affect her unborn child.
The Importance of a Daily Dental Routine
The American Dental Association (ADA) reminds pregnant women to follow a good dental routine. This includes eating healthy, brushing after every meal, and flossing daily.
Increased hormone levels during pregnancy can cause the gums to swell, bleed, and trap food (which can further irritate gums). Pregnant women also have an increased likelihood of getting gingivitis, or gum inflammation. This causes swelling, tenderness, and even bleeding. The ADA notes that gingivitis affects 60 to 75 percent of pregnant women. If it is not treated, it can lead to periodontal disease and tooth loss. Research has even linked gum disease to pre-term births.
Regular Dental Check-ups and Other Dental Work
The New York Times reported in May that many pregnant women do not get proper dental care because of their own outdated beliefs, as well as those of some dentists. However, there is no reason why dental work should affect the unborn baby.
It is important that pregnant women follow a regular dental check-up schedule throughout pregnancy. Make sure to inform the dentist and anyone else at your dental clinic who will be working on your teeth about your pregnancy. According to the American Pregnancy Association, the second trimester is the ideal time to visit the dentist. Fetal organ development occurs during the first trimester, so it is best to avoid all potential risks during this time unless necessary. In the third trimester, lying in a dentist’s chair will likely be uncomfortable.
Do not, however, avoid essential dental work like fillings, root canals, extractions, and crowns. If you have diabetes, hypertension, or require general anesthesia, which is used in sedation dentistry, it is best to consult your OB-GYN first.
Medications and X-Rays
There is disagreement in the medical field about the effect of dental medications and x-rays on an unborn child. If medication is needed, the dosage should be kept as low as possible. Category B medications are generally safe in limited amounts. It is essential, however, that a pregnant woman does not make up for a low dosage of dental pain relievers by overmedicating with over-the-counter medications, as that can be dangerous.
Anesthetics: The most common dental anesthetic is lidocaine, which is known to cross the placenta. That is why the dosage should be kept as low as possible. You still want enough to prevent any pain from the procedure, which would only cause stress on you and your baby.
Antibiotics: If you need antibiotics, amoxicillin, clindamycin, and penicillin have been determined to be safe for unborn babies.
X-Rays: Routine x-rays should be avoided. However, according to the American College of Radiology, a single diagnostic x-ray does not have enough radiation to harm the fetus.
There is no reason to neglect your dental health or fear any necessary dental procedure. Moreover, you should always consult your dentist and/or your OB-GYN with any questions or concerns.