For professionals to say pregnant women should avoid any dentist visits or having any sort of dental work done is dishonest, or at the very least, disingenuine and unwise. A healthy mouth is a happy mouth, and skipping treatments can potentially snowball into something far worse, especially for expecting mothers who want to protect their baby from any sort of infection resulting from oral negligence. With that being said, there are indeed treatments that a good dentist would recommend pregnant patients to stay away from until after they’ve given birth or some that are safe during a certain period of pregnancy. Reasons vary, and some we will dive into further on in this article.
What Effects Does Pregnancy Have on Oral Health?
Pregnancy affects oral health in a way not many are familiar with. When pregnant, an individual goes through different hormonal levels that affect anything from saliva to tooth decay. In fact, a popular sign that a woman is pregnant is through xerostomia (dry mouth). Hormonal changes also bring about thrush, which is a less-offputting way of saying oral yeast infection. Then there are far more burdensome problems, like gum disease and the aforementioned tooth decay. The highly unpopular vomiting associated with pregnancy plays a big factor in tooth decay, due to the regurgitation of stomach acids coating your teeth.
Undoubtedly even more serious than these issues is the link between periodontitis and the possibility of a baby being born prematurely. Research indicates that gum-related bacteria can enter into an individual’s bloodstream and targets the growing fetus. Proper oral and dental health is vital, and this probably goes double for expecting mothers to avoid any maternal complications.
What To Avoid During Pregnancy
However, this is not to say that all dental work should be done without treading lightly and keeping the trimester in mind. The goal of dental care during pregnancy is to provide the necessary services without causing any adverse effects to the mother or the developing baby. With that being said, some procedures or treatments may require a necessary step which may cause some adverse effects, so extensive or elective treatments should be postponed whenever possible.
Such steps are radiography-related and medicines, or anesthetics. For cosmetic treatments like teeth whitening, most dentists see the second trimester as the grace period as to when such a procedure should take place. X-rays, which often coincide with root canal therapy and more intrusive options, should probably be avoided until after giving birth, though some articles state that this is safe during the second trimester. Anesthetics, or laughing gas in such cases should be avoided altogether until after to stay on the safe side. At our practice, we stay clear from local anesthetics containing epinephrine (a vasoconstrictor) and drugs that can cross the placental barrier. Though not enough research indicates that this will have any effect on your growing baby, there’s isn’t enough to justify the safety of being put under. Orthodontic procedures should be avoided but not for any potential risk to your baby, rather due to the discomfort you may feel from laying on your back for a long time, especially during the third trimester.
Sometimes, there are cases where, under careful supervision and with a trained eye, such procedures can be done on expecting mothers. For example, a large area of decay close to a nerve can potentially cause an infection that could be harmful to you or your baby, so addressing such an issue would be necessary, as long as this is cleared with your OBGYN. Although it’s highly recommended that any X-rays should be avoided during pregnancy, if one must be taken to help address a dental emergency, then a second lead vest should be placed atop the abdominal area for extra coverage.
Except for a dental emergency, as stated before, only preventative dental treatment and hygiene appointments should be handled and scheduled during the first trimester. The best time to provide dental care is during the second trimester since most of the critical systems of your baby’s body have matured to the point where the risk to the fetus is less likely. However, all treatments should be approved by your OBGYN as they would have more sight over what’s a “go” and what isn’t in your particular pregnancy period.
What Treatments are Recommended?
It is recommended that pregnant patients have at least one dental cleaning during their trimesters to minimize the chance of developing pregnancy gingivitis. Fluoride supplementation is recommended starting around the third month of pregnancy since this is when the baby's teeth start to mineralize.
As far as medicines go, Tylenol is usually considered to be fine by most OBGYNs for controlling discomfort during or after your dental appointment. Penicillin and Erythromycin are also considered adequate antibiotics, only when the chance of infection surpasses the risk of taking such medications. As with all said treatments, checking with your OBGYN first is vital. Pregnant patients with anxiety should steer clear of taking barbiturates, anti-anxiety meds (like valium), and nitrous oxide.