Expecting mothers commonly wonder if dental treatment is possible during their pregnancy. Annual exams and preventative dental cleanings are safe while pregnant and recommended.
Oral health care plays an important role in prenatal care, as poor oral health during pregnancy may lead to poor health outcomes for the mother and baby. Physiological changes, such as a rise in pregnancy hormones — estrogen and progesterone, may result in changes such as dental caries (infections), pregnancy gingivitis and periodontitis. Dental caries can occur due to changes in one’s diet such as an increase in appetite or snacking due to cravings, poor oral hygiene and/or an increase in acidity due to nausea and vomiting. Gingivitis and periodontitis can occur because of hormonal changes that may increase the response to bacteria in the mouth. If proper oral hygiene care is not followed during pregnancy, gingivitis can advance to periodontitis. Tooth erosion can occur if one has experienced vomiting from morning sickness.
Some pregnant women may notice lumps that form on their gums, usually between the teeth, that appear red and bleed easily. These can be caused by having a large accumulation of plaque and are known as pyogenic granuloma’s, also called pregnancy tumors, although these tumors are not cancer. The lesions usually resolve after giving birth and are not something to worry about.
It is important for health care providers to review these changes that can occur to the teeth and gums during pregnancy, emphasize the importance of proper oral hygiene habits, as well as educate patients on what dental treatments are safe while pregnant. Preventative dental care such as routine examinations, cleanings, dental X-rays (with a lead apron for proper protection of the abdomen and thyroid) and the use of local anesthesia such as lidocaine with or without epinephrine are all safe during pregnancy. It is recommended to avoid the use of nitrous oxide throughout pregnancy.
One may decide to postpone elective treatment that does not require immediate attention. However, conditions such as a tooth abscess, oral infection and extensive decay are encouraged to be treated sooner rather than later to prevent further health issues. It is generally recommended that elective cosmetic or optional dental treatment be postponed until after birth and necessary treatment be done before the third trimester, preferably the second trimester. Due to the increased risk of oral health conditions during pregnancy, it is crucial to practice proper hygiene at home and continue to have routine dental check ups and cleanings.
If you are due for a dental checkup or cleaning, have questions about oral health related to pregnancy or have noticeable changes in the mouth, call your dentist to schedule an appointment.
Sarah Khoshniyati (“Dr. Sarah”) is a dentist with Palm Desert Smiles and can be reached at (760) 568.3602. Visit www.PalmDesertSmiles.com.
References: 1) https://www.acog.org/clinical/clinical-guidance/committee-opinion/articles/2013/08/oral-health-care-during-pregnancy-and-through-the-lifespan; 2) https://www.ada.org/-/media/project/ada-organization/ada/ada-org/files/about/governance/current_policies.pdf.