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Pregnancy and the Dentist: FAQs

  • How will pregnancy affect my oral health?

Pregnancy comes with a flood of hormones.  This often results in what is referred to as “pregnancy gingivitis,” where your gums may be red, inflamed, and may bleed when you brush and floss your teeth.  Good oral hygiene habits are important to minimize these effects and prevent gingivitis from progressing to periodontitis, a more serious gum disease.  Also, as your appetite changes you may find yourself snacking frequently, so if excellent oral hygiene habits are not maintained this could result in increased dental decay.  Another common finding in pregnancy is a pyogenic granuloma, a red, raspberry-shaped lump at the gumline which bleeds on manipulation.  These usually go away on their own, but can be removed under local anesthetic.

 

  •  Should I keep my cleaning appointments?

Yes.  As your baby develops, its health is dependent on your own health.  Many recent studies show that severe gum disease creates an increased risk of pre-term, low birth weight babies likely due to oral bacteria infecting the blood through the bleeding gums.  Babies born pre-term have an exponentially higher risk of a number of long-term health complications.  Therefore, it is critical to maintain good oral health.  Proceed with your regularly scheduled cleanings and exams.

 

  • What about dental x-rays?

Dental x-rays are extremely safe, but nevertheless, as an extra precaution (because your little one is so important!), routine x-rays will be post-poned until after pregnancy.  However, in the case of a dental emergency (pain, infection, etc.), x-rays should not be avoided. The potential for complications due to infection is too risky.  When x-rays are necessary, a lead apron with a thyroid collar will be used to virtually eliminate radiation exposure to the fetus.

Interested in the scientific numbers behind x-ray safety?  Radiation exposure is measured in milliSieverts (mSv).The maximum recommended safe dose for medical workers is 50 mSv per year.  Eating a banana exposes you to approximately 0.0001 mSv.  An airplane ride from New York to LA exposes you to 0.04 mSv.  A single digital dental x-ray exposes you to only 0.0002 mSv.  In other words, a single dental x-ray exposes you to as much radiation as eating 2 bananas, and bananas are extremely safe! :)

 

  • Dental Medications:

FDA category A and B drugs are safe in pregnancy.  Most common dental anesthetics (Lidocaine, Prilocaine) are safe, category B.  Avoiding anesthetic or living with dental pain elevates blood pressure, and increases stress-related metabolic byproducts which disrupts the body’s chemical balance and is not ideal for the baby, so don’t avoid treatment if you’re in pain.  Be careful with over-the-counter and prescription pain medication.  Tylenol is safe.  Aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen and most NSAIDS are NOT SAFE!    Please consult a physician before taking any medication while pregnant!!!

 

  • Dental Treatment

Although dental anesthetics are extremely safe, non-emergency treatment is usually postponed until the second trimester after the baby’s organs are developed.  During the second trimester it is safe and recommended to get fillings, or periodontal treatment. This treatment can help prevent serious infections from forming which can reach the bloodstream and affect the fetus.  Elective or cosmetic dentistry, including bleaching, should be postponed until after the baby is born.  It is safe to treat until the baby is born, but later in the third trimester, it may be uncomfortable to lie on your back as the baby gets bigger.