Regular dental checkups can detect problems that often exist with minor or no symptoms. Dental problems worsen over time and require more extensive and costly treatment. It’s best to see the dentist regularly before becoming pregnant to avoid an unexpected dental emergency during pregnancy.
Ongoing Exams and Routine Care
If you are already pregnant and haven’t had a recent exam, don’t worry. The American Dental Association (ADA), the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) all suggest that women seek dental care during pregnancy, and that doing so is considered safe. For expectant mothers who may be concerned about the effects of x-rays and numbing anesthetics, dental x-rays are considered safe when protective shields are used over the abdomen and thyroid, and local anesthetics are also considered to be safe during pregnancy.
Make sure to tell your dentist if you are pregnant, might be pregnant, or are considering becoming pregnant. Advise them of your medications, other medical conditions, and if your pregnancy is considered high-risk. They may coordinate with your physician or postpone treatment until the baby arrives.
How Pregnancy Can Impact Your Overall Mouth Health
When morning sickness leads to vomiting, stomach acid enters the mouth. To reduce enamel loss, avoid brushing your teeth immediately after vomiting. Instead, try rinsing with a teaspoon of baking soda mixed with a cup of water.1,2 The first trimester is when nausea is often worst. During the third trimester, you may be more uncomfortable in the chair. Your dentist might aim to schedule treatment in the second trimester.
While eating for two, a nutritious balanced diet is important. Include leafy greens, whole grains, lean proteins, and sufficient amounts of calcium, phosphorus, and vitamins A, C, and D. When cravings arise, try to limit your sugar intake to avoid cavities. Most importantly, remember that what you consume now can affect your baby’s development, including his or her teeth, as well.
An increase in hormones during pregnancy can create problems in the gums, including tenderness, swelling, and sometimes bleeding. Dentists call this pregnancy gingivitis, and it may begin as early as the first trimester. Left untreated, gingivitis leads to periodontitis. Periodontitis is a more serious form of gum disease that affects the tissues which hold the teeth in place. Untreated periodontitis causes tooth loss over time.
What the Research Says
Practicing good oral health habits is especially important during pregnancy. The ADA urges pregnant women to “keep in mind that your baby’s health depends on you” and states that “poor health habits during pregnancy have been linked with premature delivery, preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, and other concerns.”
The ACOG addresses ongoing research regarding an association between periodontitis and preterm births and preeclampsia, calling it “conflicting” and suggesting that “more research is needed in these areas.” However, the association does note that “regular dental care is a key component to good oral and general health” and “oral health care during pregnancy is safe and should be recommended to improve the oral and general health of the woman.” Furthermore, the AAP advises pregnant women to “see a dentist before you deliver” and advises that pregnant women “may be more prone to gum disease and cavities” which “can affect your baby’s health.”
In summary, pregnancy is a time to take great care of yourself. This includes your oral health habits that can also affect the health of your baby, so make sure to care for your teeth and gums. Brush the usual twice a day for at least two minutes. Floss each day to clean between your teeth. And see your dentist regularly for a more healthy mouth, body, and pregnancy.