Pregnancy is an exciting time for any woman, but it is also full of a seemingly endless list of do’s and don’ts. Thankfully, there have been incredible advancements in the dental field that help make your dental experience while you’re expecting more pleasant.
Between morning sickness and the excitement of pregnancy, it can be challenging to focus on your homecare routine, but it is never more critical than when you’re pregnant. Your body is working for two, and the link between gingivitis and systemic illnesses suggest that untreated gum disease can affect the health of your unborn baby as well as lower your already compromised immune system. Slacking on brushing and flossing has even been linked to gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and premature delivery.
Gingivitis, Cavities and Pregnancy Tumors, Oh My!
When you’re expecting, your body and mind undergo many physical and emotional changes. The level of the hormone progesterone soars during pregnancy, and gum tissue may overreact to plaque, causing severe inflammation in the gums, resulting in a condition called pregnancy gingivitis. It’s estimated that as many as half of all pregnant women develop pregnancy gingivitis. Symptoms of pregnancy gingivitis include bad breath and swollen, red, sensitive gums that bleed easily.
Pregnant women also have an increased risk of tooth decay due to morning sickness. Up to 50% of women have some symptoms of morning sickness. Increased exposure to acids due to vomiting can wear away tooth enamel making it easier for bacteria to break through.
Another issue some women experience during pregnancy is pregnancy tumors. Don’t worry, they sound scary, but aren’t really cancerous. It’s a name for an overgrowth of gum tissue around or in between teeth that looks worse than it is. They can be difficult to brush and floss around, but they usually go away after childbirth.
Due to the increased risks during pregnancy, your dentist may recommend an extra cleaning and exam to remove any excess plaque buildup and check for any cavities. They may also suggest some changes to your homecare routine. Be diligent about brushing and flossing at least twice a day and be sure to brush after bouts of morning sickness or gargle with warm salt water. A healthy, colorful diet that is low in excess sugar and carbohydrates can not only help prevent gestational diabetes but can also reduce plaque buildup.
Treatment and Safety
If you need dental treatment like a filling or a crown while you're pregnant, it’s never been a better time to have it done. Most dentists agree that it is riskier to put off necessary dental work than to have it done during pregnancy. Still, many women have concerns about dental treatment during pregnancy.
Technology has made great strides in the dental field and today’s procedures and medications are more gentle and safer than ever before. Many dentists recommend having any dental work done during the second trimester when most cases of morning sickness subside and before it becomes too uncomfortable to lay on your back for long periods of time during the third trimester.
Thanks to today's digital x-rays, the exposure to radiation is lower than ever, and the added reassurance of a lead apron that covers your abdomen and neck reduces your exposure even further.
Dental anesthetic is also safe for use during pregnancy, and there are several types available. A 2015 study published in The Journal of the American Dental Association showed that anesthetic, like the commonly used Lidocaine, caused no ill effects to the fetus.
If you need work done during your third trimester, your dentist may decide to wait until after your baby is born. Remember that you can always talk with your dental team and express any concerns and ask any questions. If you’re experiencing stress, chances are your baby can feel it, too. Pregnancy can be hard enough, but with a little help from your dentist and their team, maintaining your oral health can be one thing that’s easy to deliver.