Dental Care During Pregnancy
Expectant women should refrain from elective dental procedures, such as tooth whitening and cosmetic procedures, until after delivery.
A pregnant woman should always avoid dental x-rays. If x-rays are necessary, a dentist will fit the mother-to-be with a protective shield.
To improve her own dental health and the overall health of her baby, a pregnant woman should eat a balanced diet, brush her teeth twice daily and floss her teeth once a day.
Any pregnant woman in extreme pain or suffering from a tooth infection should persist in her efforts to seek professional dental care.
Many pregnant women don’t get the dental care they need, despite the association between oral health and pre-term deliveries.
In 2013, a well-known news outlet told the story of Luatany Caseres, a young woman who suffered a seriously infected tooth for a week before she could find a fourth year dental student who would treat her. She tried seeking care from a local emergency dental clinic that treats the uninsured but, on her third attempt there, Caseres learned the dentist would not see her because she was pregnant.
Caseres is not alone. A recent report says that, in 2007 – 2009, 56 percent of pregnant women said they did not see a dentist during pregnancy. This professional group noted a strong association between access to dental care and income, with the poorest women having the least access.
There are many possible reasons pregnant women do not receive the care they need. An OB-GYN doctor does not perform an oral exam and she may be tired of doctor visits. Some expectant women may be afraid to see a dentist, mistakenly thinking dental work can be dangerous during pregnancy. Lastly, with all of the appointments necessary during pregnancy, women may not be willing to schedule more time away from work or family for dental care.
Dental Care During Pregnancy
A national pregnancy association says that preventative dental work is essential during pregnancy. Rising hormone levels during pregnancy can cause gums to swell and bleed, potentially trapping food that irritates the gums even more. It is safe for pregnant women to engage in preventative care that reduces gum inflammation.
Studies have shown that gum inflammation is common during pregnancy and that a pregnant woman’s oral health can affect the health of her unborn baby. Furthermore, dental infections increase the risk for early labor, which can have serious health consequences for both the mother and her child.
Vomiting associated with morning sickness can cause tooth decay. Dental checkups to monitor decay do not pose a problem for pregnant women.
Timing Is Everything
When planning a pregnancy, a woman should complete major dental work before she conceives. She can receive routine dental exams, cleanings, emergency care, and preventative care during pregnancy but, as a precautionary measure, should schedule dental care for the second trimester of pregnancy. The baby experiences developmental spurts during the first and third trimester, so a pregnant woman should avoid dental work during the early and late stages of her pregnancy. Any questions regarding your general oral health or dental care during pregnancy should be discussed with your dentist.
Saint Louis, Catherine. “Obstacles for Pregnant Women Seeking Dental Care.” The New York Times, May 6, 2013
Committee on Health Care for Underserved Women. “Oral Health Care During Pregnancy and Through the Lifespan.” The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Number 569. August 2013.
American Pregnancy Association. “Pregnancy and Dental Work.” January 2013.
Cleveland Clinic. “Dental Care During Pregnancy.” July 2012.
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