If you are pregnant, you probably already have a full schedule of things to do. From prenatal appointments to decorating the nursery and attending showers and other social events, the months leading up to the birth of your child can have you moving nonstop. In fact, many mothers-to-be are so busy that they forgo their scheduled dental appointments.
However, skipping visits to your dentist could be a very bad idea, since pregnancy can predispose you to problems with oral health. In this article, we will discuss these issues and answer your questions about prenatal safety and dental visits.
During pregnancy, a woman’s body increases the release of certain hormones. These hormonal changes can cause a condition known as pregnancy gingivitis, which increases blood flow to gum tissues, resulting in swollen, sensitive areas. In addition, the same hormonal changes slow down your body’s typical response to bacteria such as the kind that causes periodontal disease. This process makes it much easier for plaque to build up and for your gum tissues to become infected. Typically, you are more prone to this condition in your second trimester of pregnancy.
It is estimated that up to 75% of pregnant women experience gingivitis, the milder precursor to periodontal disease, characterized by swollen and possibly bleeding gums.
Absolutely! In fact, severe periodontal disease has been associated with low infant birth weight, preterm births, and other poor pregnancy outcomes, although we are not sure why this is so. But poor oral health not only affects your child in utero, but it also can set them up for problems after birth and in childhood.
For example, children of mothers who have untreated cavities are more likely to experience tooth decay as a child, possibly because mothers transmit cavity-causing bacteria from their mouths to the mouths of their children.
Pregnant women, with their higher levels of hormones, are at greater risk of periodontal disease. But behavior changes during pregnancy, such as eating more “craved” foods such as sweets or being too tired to practice good oral hygiene, can often play havoc with oral health. In fact, nearly one in every four women of childbearing age has untreated cavities. As we explained earlier, these cavities not only put you at greater risk of tooth loss, but also can cause problems for your children down the line.
The benefits of seeing your dentist throughout your pregnancy make the effort worthwhile. Routine checkups and teeth cleaning are an important way to stay on top of oral health and to catch any issues before they have a chance to become problematic. Here are some quick guidelines:
Routine Checkups: Let your dentist know that you are pregnant so they can either defer x-rays or use a lead apron that will protect your growing fetus.
Fillings or Tooth Extractions: There is virtually no risk with either of these procedures for pregnant patients as local dental anesthetics are perfectly safe during pregnancy.
Extensive dental work: If you need multiple extractions, dental implants, gum surgery, or other extensive dental work, it is advisable to wait until the second — and maybe even the third — trimester to have these completed if you can. This is to reduce the potential for nausea, vomiting, or gagging during the procedure as first trimester pregnancies are often marked by “morning sickness,” which despite the name can occur at any time during the day.
Regardless of whether or not you are pregnant, you should follow a strong oral care program. That means brushing your teeth twice per day using a fluoridated toothpaste and flossing at least in the evening. If you wish, you can add rinsing with a mouthwash that contains fluoride, so long as it does not also contain alcohol.
If you have morning sickness and are experiencing occasional vomiting, rinse your mouth with a protective solution. Mix one teaspoon of baking soda with a glass of room temperature water until the baking soda is dissolved and then rinse. Some women find that highly flavored toothpastes make them queasy during the first trimester. If this is the case for you, ask your dentist to recommend one that is more bland tasting to reduce the potential for nausea.
As always, talk over any dental issues you experience with your dentist right away. Early treatment is the best way to keep pregnancy-related dental health issues at bay to keep your mouth — and your pregnancy — healthier.
If you are pregnant, your baby’s health will be your first priority. That is one reason why taking care of your own health is so crucial at this special time. Poor oral health can contribute to problems during pregnancy — and beyond — so you will want to concentrate on keeping your teeth and gums in good condition.
You’ll also want to work with a dental professional who is well-versed in treating pregnant patients. If you’re located in Carson, Care Dental Center is your answer to pregnancy-related dental care. Feel free to make an appointment with one of our dental professionals to get started — and be sure to tell our friendly staff that you are expecting so we can provide extra-special care!
Keep your smile — and your pregnancy — healthier as you move through this exciting time in life. Contact us at (310) 626-0004 and let our caring, knowledgeable staff ensure you experience better oral health throughout your pregnancy — and beyond!