What Should I Know About Dental Care When Pregnant?
As a father and a dentist, I know how important dental care is to every expectant mother. Pregnancy is not a time to neglect oral hygiene or skip visits to the dentist. In fact, oral health is directly related to the overall health of both the mother and her developing baby. Regular oral exams and cleanings are safe and may help in preventing or diagnosing and treating any pregnancy-related dental symptoms.
Here are some common concerns I hear about dental care that women should get during a pregnancy:
How Does Pregnancy Affect My Teeth?
Many women experience no dental problems during pregnancy. However, for some, pregnancy can make some conditions worse or even create new ones.
Pregnancy Gingivitis. The normal hormonal changes of pregnancy can affect your mouth. For example, your gums may bleed a little when you brush or floss. Some women develop a condition known as “pregnancy gingivitis,” an inflammation of the gums that can cause swelling and tenderness. Your dentist may recommend more frequent cleanings to prevent this.
Some dental plans include a benefit for an extra cleaning for pregnant women in their second or third trimester, to help reduce the risk of oral infections leading to low birth weight and pre-term labor and delivery.
Increased Risk of Tooth Decay. For many reasons, pregnant women may develop more cavities. Changes in diet – additional carbohydrates and sugar – can cause decay. Also, morning sickness can increase the amount of acid in your mouth, which tends to destroy tooth enamel. It can be a challenge to brush and floss regularly if you have morning sickness, tender gums, an increased gag reflex or just simple exhaustion. Keeping up your daily hygiene routine will help maintain healthy teeth and gums during your pregnancy.
Does My Diet Affect My Baby’s Teeth?
Your baby’s teeth begin to develop between the third and sixth month of pregnancy. That’s why your commitment to a well-balanced diet is important for both of you. A sufficient quantity of nutrients—especially vitamins A, C, and D, protein, calcium and phosphorous—are needed. It’s quite normal for pregnant women to want to eat more frequently, so make sure that you choose healthy snacks and avoid sugar. For more information about nutrition during pregnancy, including food safety risks, visit the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
How Safe Is Dental Care During Pregnancy?
Most dentists prefer to limit dental work during pregnancy to dental cleanings and annual exams. Preventive dental work while pregnant is not only safe but is essential to avoid oral infections such as gum disease, which has been linked to preterm birth. The exception is to treat a painful condition or one that has the potential for infection. If you experience dental pain, contact your dentist immediately. Left untreated, that pain may result in an abscessed tooth and infection.
You should tell your dental team that you are pregnant when you make your appointment. If you are taking medications or have received special advice from your doctor, make sure to share this with your dentist.
Remember, healthy teeth make a healthy smile!
Dr. Nishan Halim
Nishan Halim, DMD specializes in adult and pediatric restorative and cosmetic dentistry, as well as preventive dentistry, which is at the heart of this Capitol Hill, Washington DC neighborhood dental center. If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, contact Dr. Halim to schedule an appointment.