Maintaining oral health during pregnancy

By Lynne Roketta, RDH on December 16, 2013

Looking after your teeth and gums is an important part of overall health, but is especially critical during pregnancy. Avoiding pain and infection is always a good thing. You should seek treatment if you have any infection of your gums or any dental caries. These infections can have effects throughout the body and the developing fetus.

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Raging hormones: Altered hormones mean your gums and teeth are more susceptible to disease.
  • Gum infections: Having swollen and/or bleeding gums is linked to preterm births and developing preeclampsia (high blood pressure). Pregnancy hormones can exacerbate existing infection of your gums.
  • Plaque control: Adequate plaque control through good brushing and flossing is highly recommended to minimize gum infections. Professional scalings are also a good idea.
  • Morning Sickness: If you have difficulty doing your regular dental hygiene during this difficult time, alter the timing of brushing and flossing to when you feel a little better. Do more rinsing if brushing makes you feel sick. Chewing sugarless gum can be helpful. Crunchy fruits and vegetables are good for you and can help keep your teeth and gums healthier.
  • X-rays: Minimal emergency radiographs that are deemed necessary are okay, but it is recommended to avoid any routine X-rays until after childbirth.
  • Local anesthetic: Safe use of local anesthetic during pregnancy has not been very well established; however the small amount used in dentistry would probably not have any adverse effects. If your cavity is severe enough, anesthetic is warranted, as you should not suffer pain and discomfort (taking large amounts of pain relievers is far worse for the fetus). You do not want to leave a large decay untreated and have it become more serious. If the lesion is small, have a discussion with your dental professional to see if the procedure can wait until after delivery. It is best to have dental work done during the second trimester. 
  • Teeth whitening: Postpone any cosmetic procedures until after the baby arrives. 
  • Benign pregnancy tumors: This is an overgrowth of tissue that causes a red or purple bump in the mouth. It is a harmless growth triggered by changes in hormones, trauma or irritation. They are more common in the second trimester. It may require simple monitoring.

By Lynne Roketta, RDH| December 16, 2013

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