Many expecting mothers are under the impression that dental treatment should be postponed until after the birth of their babies. This is an incorrect assumption and the failure of the pregnant mother to receive dental care can have adverse effects on their child. In short, dental care is safe, effective and beneficial to both fetus and mother throughout the course of pregnancy. Dental infections can increase the risk of premature and low birth weight babies. Dental X-Rays, local anesthetic, certain pain medications, and certain antibiotics are safe during pregnancy.
Various issues arising during pregnancy include:
- Pregnancy gingivitis refers to an exaggerated inflammatory response of the gum tissue to plaque buildup during pregnancy as a result of increased progesterone levels, which alters the oral microflora (or bacteria of the mouth). This condition is transient and normally resolves upon the birth of the child. A trip to the dentist during pregnancy helps to reduce the plaque buildup that contributes to this disease state by removing/reducing this inflammation inducing factor.
- Gestational diabetes is a possible complication of pregnancy that may effect the periodontal tissue (gums and bone supporting the teeth) of expecting mothers. This type of diabetes is seen in approximately 4% of pregnant women. The link between diabetes and periodontal disease is well established, and studies have shown women with gestational diabetes to be 9 times more likely to have periodontal disease.
- Dental Treatment is safe throughout the course pregnancy. It is best administered during the second trimester when the risk of pregnancy loss is lowered and the mother is usually most comfortable.
- X rays – Are safe during pregnancy. A lead apron with thyroid collar should be used. The radiographic doses of dental films are a small fraction of uterine doses received from naturally occurring background radiation during pregnancy.
- Amalgam restorations are safe during pregnancy. There is no evidence that fetal exposure to mercury from existing dental amalgams causes adverse effects. In fact, the consumption of fish and seafood is a much greater source of mercury.
- Treatment of infection is safe during pregnancy. Category B antibiotics are safe (penicillin, amoxicillin, clindamycin, cephalosporins)
- Treatment of pain is safe during pregnancy. Category B analgesics (painkillers) include acetaminophen (Tylenol), meperidine, and morphine are safe. Category C analgesics should be used with caution (codeine, hydrocodone).
- Use of local anesthetics is safe, including category B anesthetics (lidocaine with epinephrine, and prilocaine).
- Use of inhalation anesthetics, such as nitrous oxide, should be used with caution.
- Tips for yourself and your baby
- Brush your teeth twice daily using a soft bristle brush and fluoride tooth paste
- Floss daily
- Limit sugar to mealtimes
- Drink water and low fat milk, avoid soda
- Eat healthy foods
- Chew sugarless gum after eating
- Vomiting can wear down your teeth. Mix one teaspoon of baking soda in one cup of water as a rinse after vomiting.