Q&A: Pregnant? Take Care of Your Teeth
Expectant mothers have unique needs when it comes to dental care. Oral health may affect not only a woman’s overall health, but also that of her unborn baby. Here’s what you need to know.
Q: When should I go to the dentist if I’m pregnant?
A: Routine exams and cleanings are fine at any time during pregnancy, according to the American Dental Association. Though you might want to schedule dental work before your 20th week of pregnancy, when you’re most likely to be comfortable in the dentist chair. When making the appointment, let the dental office know you’re pregnant and how far along you are.
Q: Why do pregnant women often have gum problems?
A: Hormonal changes and increased blood flow during pregnancy can make women more prone to periodontal (gum) disease. Up to 75% of soon-to-be mothers have gingivitis, an early stage of periodontal disease. This gum problem can cause swelling, bleeding, and redness in the gums. It can also develop into a serious gum infection.
Q: How does periodontal disease affect pregnancy?
A: This condition has been linked to low birth weight and preterm birth. However, more research is needed to determine how gum disease affects pregnancy and birth. If you find out you have periodontal disease, know that treatment is safe during pregnancy. Avoiding treatment might put your health and your baby’s health at risk.
Q: What other dental procedures are safe during pregnancy?
A: If you have a high-risk pregnancy, your dentist and healthcare provider can advise if any procedures need to be postponed. But in most cases, dental emergency treatments—such as extractions, root canals, or restorations—are safe to receive during pregnancy. X-rays are safe, too. Just be sure you’re provided a lead apron plus a lead collar to protect your thyroid gland.
Q: How can pregnant women avoid gum problems?
A: Keep your teeth clean, especially near the gums. Brush with a soft-bristled brush and fluoride toothpaste at least twice a day. Floss between teeth once daily. Tip: If toothpaste is making you feel nauseated, try switching to a neutral-flavored brand.