If you’re pregnant, Congratulations! That’s great! So now, let’s talk about your teeth. Oral and dental health is an often-overlooked part of a healthy pregnancy. While women often avoid seeing a dentist for treatment or a hygienist for cleanings out of concern for their growing baby, it is not only safe to be seen for regular cleanings and dental work; it is also recommended. In addition, the oral health of the mother affects the infant and pregnancy.
A common concern during pregnancy is whether or not taking x-rays is safe. Dental x-rays are very low dose and are safe at any point throughout pregnancy. Wearing a lead apron is standard at most dental offices. Taking x-rays is an essential part of diagnosing cavities and infections and is considered a routine part of a good dental exam. Women should continue to see the dentist and hygienist regularly. It may be easier during the second trimester when nausea has subsided, and it is still comfortable to lay on your back.
During pregnancy, hormone changes alter the response of your gums to plaque and can cause more inflammation, known as gingivitis. Using a soft brush twice a day can help keep plaque to a minimum. There is some evidence that inflammation from gingivitis can increase the risk of pregnancy complications, so it is vital to keep your gums healthy.
One of the unfortunately familiar parts of pregnancy is vomiting and acid reflux. Stomach acid can be hard on teeth. While you may feel the urge to brush your teeth immediately after vomiting to remove the taste, it is best to avoid brushing for at least 30 minutes to keep from brushing stomach acid into the enamel and eroding it. The best option is to rinse with water and 1 tsp baking soda to neutralize the stomach acid if tolerated. If that isn’t tolerated, rinse out with some plain water or fluoride-based mouth rinse instead. Acid reflux can erode tooth enamel and can be safely treated with over-the-counter medications.
If you need dental care for a cavity or infection, the typical medications used by dentists are safe. Including antibiotics and medicines for “Numbing you up.” It may, however, be best to avoid Nitrous Oxide (laughing gas).
So, in short, dental health is essential because you need your teeth for the rest of your life. Therefore, you should not neglect your dental care during your pregnancy.
David Laraway, MD, OB/GYN
Canyon View Women’s Health