During pregnancy, women are more likely to have problems with their teeth and gums. The changes in hormone levels react with plaque allowing bacteria to grow in the mouth and gums more easily making periodontal disease more common in pregnant women. A lot of pregnant women also experience nausea and vomiting or "morning sickness" which creates stomach acids and can break down the enamel coating of the teeth.
Keeping your regular appointments at the dentist is safe and important for the heath of expecting mothers and their babies. Some women develop a condition known as "pregnancy gingivitis" which is an inflammation of the gums that can cause swelling and tenderness. Gums may bleed when brushing or flossing and if left untreated, gingivitis can lead to more serious forms of the disease. Cochecho Dental recommends more frequent cleanings to prevent this condition from getting worse.
Pregnant women may also be more prone to cavities for many different reasons. Morning sickness can increase the amount of acid in the mouth and if eating habits have changed and more carbohydrates are being consumed, the risk of tooth decay becomes higher. Keeping the regular routine of brushing twice a day and flossing is extremely important and can sometimes get put on the back burner due to morning sickness, a sensitive gag reflex, tender gums, and fatigue. The ADA has found that poor habits during pregnancy have been associated with gestational diabetes, premature delivery, intrauterine growth restriction, and preeclampsia. Some pregnant women experience "pregnancy tumors" that appear on the gums, typically during the second trimester. This looks like swelling between teeth and may be related to excess plaque. The pregnancy tumors usually disappear after the baby is born.
What about x-rays and local anesthetics during pregnancy?
Although radiation from dental x-rays is extremely low, Cochecho Dental, will typically not take x-rays on pregnant women unless for an emergency situation. If an x-ray is necessary, the dentist or hygienist will cover the patient with a lead apron that includes a lead collar to protect the thyroid from radiation and minimize exposure to the abdomen. The Journal of the American Dental Association discusses the safety of dental radiographs along with the safety of dental treatment with women who are pregnant.
If dental treatment is recommended during pregnancy, Cochecho Dental typically will perform treatment during the second trimester (weeks 14-20). Nausea and vomiting may be an issue during the first trimester and being laid back in the dental chair during the third trimester may cause discomfort due to the weight of the baby. Sometimes a dental emergency will happen during pregnancy so it is important to notify your dentist right away to seek immediate treatment to reduce the risk of infection. Elective dentistry such as whitening and major dental treatment should be postponed until after the baby is born.
If you have questions about dental care during pregnancy, the team at Cochecho Dental is here to help at (603)742-3321.