We all have basic dental habits. Brush in the morning, floss, drink lots of water, brush again at night, and see the dentist every six months. But should this routine change when you are pregnant? Do you need to see your dentist more often? Oral care needs to be as regular as any other appointment that you make with a health care provider. Cavities and gum issues still occur when you are pregnant. Approximately 40% of pregnant women in the US have some form of periodontal disease, including gingivitis (inflammation of the gums), cavities (tooth decay), and periodontitis (inflammation of ligaments and bones that support the teeth). The physical changes caused by pregnancy can result in changes in the gums and teeth (American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologist, July 26, 2013). Let’s take a look at the types of dental issues that may arise when you are pregnant and how you can combat these issues.
Can I Have Dental Work Done While I Am Pregnant?
Yes! The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists report in February of 2010, that “Prevention, diagnosis and treatment of oral diseases, including needed dental radiographs and use of local anesthesia, are highly beneficial and can be undertaken during pregnancy with no additional fetal or maternal risk when compared to the risk of not providing care. Good oral health and control of oral disease protects a woman’s health and quality of life and has the potential to reduce the transmission of pathogenic bacteria from mothers to their children.” (http://www.cdafoundation.org)
Dentists recommend that if you need dental work done that you have it after your first trimester. Complications are lower after this time. Hopefully morning sickness symptoms have passed making the dental exam easier on you. If you have an infection that requires the use of a medication, your dentist and ob/gyn doctor can weigh the options and chose the best path of treatment for you and your unborn child. Not treating an infection can lead to other problems for mom and possibly the baby, so be sure to call your dentist if you have any pain or swelling in the mouth.
Pregnant women may require several small meals throughout the day when they are carrying a baby. Snacking throughout the day will cause teeth to become covered in plaque which can lead to tooth decay. Vomiting can cause tooth decay due to the acidity of your vomit. Your dentist can check your teeth for cavities and will have the dental hygienist clean your teeth to remove plaque and calculus deposits.
Your hormone levels fluctuate during your pregnancy. These fluctuations can lead to gum inflammation, also called gingivitis. Symptoms of gingivitis are gums that bleed when brushing or swelling of the gums. If you do not take the time to see your dentist, the gum disease may worsen. Low birth weight and preterm birth have both been linked to untreated gum disease in pregnant women. The Journal of the American Dental Association reported that pregnant women with chronic gum disease were four to seven times more likely to deliver prematurely (before gestational week 37) and have underweight babies than mothers with healthy gums (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15974837). A consequence of pregnancy gingivitis is periodontal disease. If periodontal disease is left untreated, it can cause tooth loss.
The American Dental Association describes pregnancy tumors as a growth on the gums that can bleed. They are not cancerous. They can be removed by your dentist but normally disappear after birth. Your dentist may refer you to an oral surgeon for the removal.
Are X-Rays Safe?
Yes! If you suffer from a dental emergency the dentist could require an X-Ray to locate the problem or correctly diagnosis the emergency. The hygienist will shield your baby by placing a leaded apron over your abdominal area. In July, 2013, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologist stated “Teeth cleanings and dental X-Rays are safe for pregnant women. Ob/gyns are now being advised to perform routine oral health assessments at the first prenatal visit and encourage their patients to see a dentist during pregnancy.”
Healthy Food Choices Are Required
It is not news to you that you must eat healthy during your pregnancy not only to keep up your energy but to supply your baby with much needed nutrients. But what foods are the best for your oral health when pregnant?
Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole –grain foods, cheeses and yogurt. Cut back on sugary snacks such as candy, cookies, pie and cake. Drink water and not soda or sugary fruit drinks. Eat food high in folic acid like lettuce, beans, strawberries and bananas. Don’t forget to take the prenatal vitamins recommended by your ob/gyn.
Keep Your Regular Routine
Don’t stop your regular daily routine just because you are pregnant. Brush teeth twice daily with a fluoridated toothpaste, especially before bedtime, and floss daily. Keep your regularly scheduled appointments and be sure to ask your dentist or ob/gyn questions should they arise.
Because it all begins with a healthy woman…
Sue Ann Thompson is founder and president of the Wisconsin Women’s Health Foundation (WWHF), a statewide non-profit organization whose mission is to help Wisconsin women and their families reach their healthiest potential. WWHF provides programs and conducts forums that focus on education, prevention, and early detection; connects individuals to health resources; produces and distributes the most up-to-date health education and resource materials; and, awards grants and scholarships to women health researchers and related community non-profits. To learn more, visit wwhf.org or call 1-800-448-5148.