Dental health is particularly important during pregnancy because there are certain oral conditions that are directly related to pregnancy.
Changes in hormones during pregnancy cause gingivitis (gum disease) in almost half of all pregnant women. If a woman has gum disease before becoming pregnant, the condition can be worsened. For this reason, if you’re planning on becoming pregnant, it’s important to visit your dentist first. Your dentist will address any oral health conditions and recommend a plan of action prior to you becoming pregnant. Where possible get new dental x-rays and have any procedures that might involve drugs or anesthesia done before getting pregnant.
There are a series of guidelines for oral health in pregnancy. In addition to educating expectant mothers of the importance of good oral health, the guidelines recommend:
- Tooth cleanings to remove bacterial plaque from teeth and gums and prevent the occurrence or exacerbation of gum disease as might happen in pregnancy. (*Plaque is a bio film of food debris and bacteria formed on surfaces of the teeth after eating and before tooth brushing).
- Using fluoride toothpaste and an over-the-counter alcohol-free fluoride rinse to help reduce the amount of plaque in the mouth.
- Nutrition – Limiting sugar intake assists in limiting plaque buildup.
- Tooth Decay Treatment – It is important for pregnant mothers to receive treatment to remove bacteria related to tooth decay.
The Pregnancy Epulis
In some women, overgrowths of tissue called pregnancy epulides appear on the gums, most often during the second trimester. These are non-cancerous and should not cause you to a lot of worry. They are located between the teeth and may be related to excess plaque. They can bleed easily, and have a raw-looking appearance. They usually disappear after the baby is born but you should contact your dentist for advice and appropriate treatment as soon as you see this condition during your pregnancy.
Other medical conditions related to pregnancy
Blood pressure changes
As pregnancy progresses, there is a commensurate increase in volume of blood in the pregnant woman. This usually accounts for changes in circulation and in some women a spike in the blood pressure. These changes in blood pressure can have life threatening consequences for both the mother and the baby.
Before visiting the dentist for dental treatment, have a review with your general physician or obstetrician to know if your blood pressure is still normal. If your blood pressure has risen significantly during pregnancy, your dentist may have to postpone any dental treatments until your blood pressure is well controlled and back to normal.
During pregnancy (usually around the 24th week) many women develop gestational diabetes. A diagnosis of gestational diabetes doesn’t mean that you had diabetes before you conceived, or that you will have diabetes after giving birth. But it’s important to follow your doctor’s advice regarding blood glucose (blood sugar) levels while you’re planning your pregnancy, so you and your baby both remain healthy.
Inform your dentist about this condition so that your dental treatment can be scheduled at a more appropriate time when your blood sugar levels are under control.
Drug prescriptions during pregnancy
While caution must taken in all stages of pregnancy and after delivery, by far the most critical period is the first trimester (first three months) of your pregnancy. Inform your dentist before hand about your pregnancy state so that they can know what medications are safe during this time of your pregnancy and even after delivery when you are breastfeeding.
Dental treatment in pregnancy
Dental appointments during pregnancy should be short and must involve simpler procedures to ensure as less stress on both the mother and the baby as possible. During pregnancy, it is advisable to restrict dental treatments to simpler procedures like cleanings and routine reviews. At later stages of your pregnancy, it becomes more difficult to lie in a supine position on the chair for any extended period of time to allow a dentist to complete more detailed treatments.
All emergency dental treatments can still be carried out after careful assessment and all precautions above have been carried out. Severe dental pain should be managed immediately regardless of the pregnancy state.
Ideally all other elective procedures like crown and bridge work and cosmetic procedures should be postponed until delivery.
Dental X-rays in pregnancy
Like all other elective procedures, dental x-rays are best avoided during pregnancy. If absolutely necessary, the appropriate precautions and protective gear should be in place before the dental x-rays are taken.
At Neptune Dental®, we have seen a number of patients who are expecting, and we strongly encourage them to contact us regularly with any questions or concerns they may have. We understand that pregnancy is an especially important time to be health-conscious, and we’re more than happy to help you understand what’s going on with your dental health during this time. It’s actually important to let your dentist know about any changes in your mouth during pregnancy, and to carefully monitor your dental health.
You can call us any time, schedule an appointment, or use the “Ask the Dentist” feature on our website to get answers to your questions. We’re also delighted to help you start looking ahead to planning good dental care for your new child as he or she grows.
Here’s to a very good dental health as you await your bundle of joy.