Dental Care For Pregnant Women
PREGNANCY AND ORAL AND DENTAL CARE
This is a very important time in your life. You are about to have a baby. It is known that pregnancy causes certain oral and dental changes. Most importantly, estrogen and progesterone hormone levels increase, and this exacerbates possible problems in teeth and gums.
SHOULD I GO TO THE DENTIST WHILE I AM PREGNANT?
Absolutely, yes. And regularly, too. Since you have increased hormone levels, you will need to visit your dentist more often while pregnant. The first thing you will notice is that your gums will be bleeding more often. Your dentist will provide you with better information about these changes, and possible treatment methods.
WHEN SHOULD I GO TO THE DENTIST?
If you are planning to get pregnant or suspect that you already are, you should visit your dentist. The dentist will prepare a treatment schedule for the remainder of your pregnancy. During another visit in the second trimester, any changes and the effectiveness of oral hygiene will be evaluated. Accordingly, your dentist may recommend teeth cleaning. Your dentist will then decide whether you need to come in again during your third trimester. However, care should be taken to keep these visits as short as possible.
ARE DENTAL X-RAYS SAFE DURING PREGNANCY?
If required, it is safe to obtain 1-2 dental X rays. Dental X rays give off minimal radiation, and not in the direction of the baby. Nevertheless, care should be taken to prevent radiation exposure of the developing fetus, and the mother should wear a lead apron during the procedure. We recommend against taking X-rays during the first trimester to stay on the safe side.
"I USED ANTIBIOTICS WHEN I WAS PREGNANT" WILL THIS AFFECT MY BABY'S TEETH?
We have already mentioned that one should avoid using medication while pregnant. However, not every antibiotic causes discoloration in the baby’s teeth. The antibiotic family that causes dental discoloration is called as “tetracyclines”. There is no evidence suggesting that any other antibiotic causes discoloration.
ARE THERE ANY PROCEDURES TO BE AVOIDED DURING PREGNANCY?
Generally, most non-emergency procedures are safe to perform during pregnancy. That said, the best time for any dental treatment is between months 4 and 6. If the patient is in severe pain, they can undergo treatment during any time of pregnancy. Anesthesia is safe; however, the gynecologist should be consulted before using any drugs. Any procedures that can be delayed should be postponed until after the delivery.
CAN PREGNANCY CAUSE TOOTH LOSS?
No. The well-known phrase ‘Gain a child, lose a tooth’, or the notion that the mother will lose one tooth in each pregnancy due to calcium loss is not based on truth. Yet, it is a fact that there will be some changes in oral health during pregnancy.
DO TEETH DECAY FASTER DURING PREGNANCY?
As mentioned before, the belief that “pregnancy causes calcium deficiency and results in the loss of one tooth for each pregnancy” is not based on facts. That said, the changes in the body create an environment more prone to rapid decay. Teeth decay more rapidly during pregnancy and breastfeeding, due to craving sweets and junk food, and neglecting oral hygiene.
Also, the expectant mother may let oral habits slip during the first trimester when the morning sickness is at its worst. The gums become more prone to bleeding due to changing hormone levels (estrogen and progesterone), which may result in the expectant mother to avoid brushing their teeth. All of these combine to result in an increased risk of tooth decay.
HOW CAN I KEEP MY BABY'S TEETH HEALTHY?
Teeth start developing in the unborn baby. During this period, the mother should consume a balanced diet, both for her own health, and the development of her baby’s teeth. A diet rich in vitamin A (meat, milk, eggs, yellow vegetables and fruits), vitamin C (citrus, tomatoes, strawberries), vitamin D (milk, meat, eggs, fish), and calcium (milk and dairy, green leafy vegetables) is recommended. It is also prominent to avoid unnecessary drug use. Chemicals can negatively affect the overall as well as the dental health of the fetus. Being knowledgeable about a baby’s dental health is the first step for your child to have healthy teeth for life. Learn about babies’ dental care and nutrition.
WHY ARE MY GUMS BLEEDING?
If plaque is not removed, it can cause gingivitis. In pregnant women, this condition is called “pregnancy gingivitis”. The gums are red, swollen, tender, and bleeding. This clinical picture affects most women in the second trimester with varying severity. If the patient has gingivitis since before they got pregnant, pregnancy may worsen the severity and extent of the condition, if left untreated. Pregnant women are also under the risk of developing a “pregnancy tumor.”
These result from the changing hormone levels and regress spontaneously at the end of pregnancy. Pregnancy tumors are benign and can be managed with simple gum treatments. However, if they cause discomfort or get in the way of chewing, brushing, or oral hygiene procedures, they can be removed by a dentist.
HOW CAN THESE PROBLEMS BE PREVENTED?
Gingivitis can be prevented by effective oral and dental hygiene. Teeth should be brushed at least twice every day, and if possible, after every meal. Teeth should also be flossed once a day. If brushing your teeth in the morning is uncomfortable, you can try brushing your teeth without toothpaste, provided that you rinse your mouth with an anti-plaque and fluoride mouthwash.
Please remember that rinsing your mouth will not replace brushing your teeth, and you should brush your teeth as soon as you can. Along with a balanced diet, vitamin C and B12 supplements are also important for maintaining oral health.
More frequent dentist visits can help to prevent gingivitis by providing effective plaque control. Plaque control will also reduce gum irritation and the risk of pregnancy tumors.