Your teeth and gums are affected by your pregnancy just like other parts of your body, and your oral health could affect the health of your unborn baby.
Approximately 50 percent of pregnant women experience a condition called pregnancy gingivitis. Frequent snacking, especially on sugary foods, can contribute to gingivitis, which can cause swelling, bleeding, redness, and tenderness of the gums. Since pregnant women often eat smaller meals more frequently without brushing after each snack, they may be bathing their teeth in plaque and bacteria. To prevent pregnancy gingivitis, make sure to brush your teeth after each meal and floss at lease once a day.
If gingivitis is not treated, it can develop into periodontal disease, a more advanced gum infection that destroys the attachment fibers and supporting bone that hold your teeth in your mouth. Periodontal disease has been linked with low birth weight babies and preterm labor. Oral bacteria contain prostaglandin, one of the hormones that are known to cause labor.
Pregnancy tumors are another oral condition faced by many pregnant women. The tumors often appear as red, raw, painful lumps on the gums during the second trimester. Although they are not cancerous, they may be an indication of a serious oral condition because they are believed to be caused by excess plaque. The tumors usually subside after the baby is born; but if they persist, they should be surgically removed.
If possible, you should have a complete dental exam, and have any necessary procedures performed, before becoming pregnant. And while you are pregnant, you should continue to visit your dentist for regular cleanings. However, elective dental treatments such as x-rays, whitening and bonding, should be avoided, especially during the first trimester. Dental treatments in general are not recommended during the third trimester because the tilt of the dental chair may reduce blood circulation, and lying on your back for an extended period of time may be uncomfortable.
Always check with your obstetrician before undergoing any dental treatment, and let your dentist know you are pregnant as soon as possible The following are some procedures and medications often used in dental care that you may encounter while pregnant, as well as information on their safety:
Unnecessary x-rays are discouraged for pregnant women. However, if you must have an x-ray while you are pregnant, rest assured that the risk to your unborn baby is considered minimal, since your uterus is shielded by a lead apron and the amount of radiation that scatters during the x-ray and passes through part of your body not covered by the apron is negligible. So if you develop a dental condition that requires an x-ray and not having one poses a risk to your health, go ahead and have it.
According to the American Dental Association (ADA), there is no correlation between receiving amalgam Fillings during pregnancy and low birth weight. This is a controversial topic and many people remain unconvinced that silver (mercury) amalgam fillings do not cause health, wait until after you deliver to have one performed.
A necessary tooth extraction or root canal during your pregnancy is safe. If you have one done, use a local anesthetic if possible.
Local anesthetics such as novocaine or lidocaine are better to use than intravenous or inhaled products. Avoid epinephrine, which is often added to local anesthetics to make them last longer. Women who are given epinephrine run a higher risk of some minor birth defects.
Avoid non-steroidal pain medications such as ibuprofen (Advil, Aleve) and asprin while you are pregnant. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is considered to be safe through most of your pregnancy. Stronger pain medications such as codeine or Percodan may be used for less then a few weeks however, the fetus may be less active while you’re on the medication.Narcotics such as these are not recommended for long-term use.
If you have an infection, your dentist may prescribe an antibiotic. Unless you are allergic to them, antibiotics from the penicillin and cephalosporin families are safe to take. Erythromycin and metrronidazole are also safe to take. However, tetracycline should be avoided since it can affect the teeth and bones of the fetus.
It is not known whether supplemental fluoride poses any risk to the fetus, and there is conflicting evidence whether taking fluoride supplements while pregnant will actually reduce the number of cavities your child develops later in life. The levels of fluoride found in city water supplies are probably safe for your baby and sufficient for preventing cavities.
The bottom line in dental care during your pregnancy is the healthier you are, the healthier your baby will be. Avoid unnecessary or cosmetic procedures, but don’t avoid the dentist. If you have a dental problem, have it taken care of. Always make sure your dentist knows that you are pregnant, and check with your obstetrician if you are unsure about the safety of any procedures or medications.