If you are currently expecting or have made it safely past a few months of your pregnancy, going to the dentist may be the last thing on your mind. However, researches claim that dental health during your pregnancy is directly correlated to your baby’s general health. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the American Dental Association (ADA) express great concerns over the growing fetus’ health and urge all pregnant women to maintain their oral health to ensure both the general health of herself and the health of her baby. So, while you are out running for doctor’s appointments, shopping for baby essentials, and frantically setting up the nursery, make sure to not let dental visits slip out of your mind.
Despite the ADA stating the importance of maintaining good oral health during pregnancy, a recent U.S. survey showed that most women failed to visit the dentist while pregnant. Not only that, but a more unnerving account also stated that half of the women who reported oral problems during pregnancy did not seek care because they believed poor oral health during pregnancy was ‘normal’ or they feared dental treatments could in some way harm the baby. It is important to note, amidst this misinformation that appropriate and timely dental care can lead to improved pregnancy outcomes.
How pregnancy will affect your mouth?
Although most women make it nine months without any major dental concern, the hormonal changes during pregnancy are likely to impact dental health. Pregnancy may also give rise to a wide variety of new dental complications, so regular dental check-ups and good oral hygiene practices are the decisive factors in building good health of you and the baby. Some of the dental concerns you may face while pregnant are:
- Pregnancy Gingivitis
The hormonal fluctuations during pregnancy can change the way your mouth reacts to dental plaque. During pregnancy, some women develop a condition known as “pregnancy gingivitis”, an inflammation of the gums distinguished by the swelling, redness, readily bleeding, and tenderness of the gums. This is caused by the overexaggerated response of the gums to dental plaque and toxic bacterial by-products. Some research papers have also shown that pregnancy can increase the amount of anaerobic microbial flora in the mouth, if left intervened, it will lead to other serious forms of gum disease.
Furthermore, other research studies have also established that women with periodontal disease are more likely to deliver babies prematurely or with low-birth weight than mothers with healthy gums. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), babies born prematurely and with low birth weight (less than 5.5. pounds) may be at livelong health risks of delayed motor skills, social growth, or learning disabilities. It is best for expectant mums to have regular periodontal evaluations to safeguard the health of the baby.
- Increased risk of tooth decay
Pregnant ladies may also be more prone to cavities, states the American Dental Association (ADA). Eating for two may mean that your carbohydrates intake may also be doubled. This allows more acid-producing bacteria to convert more sugars into acid, thus leading to an endless cycle of tooth decay. Additionally, morning sickness during the first and second trimesters of your pregnancy can also increase the amount of acid your mouth is exposed to, which causes more harmful bacteria to eat away at your tooth enamel.
- Pregnancy Tumors
“Pregnancy tumors” are overgrowths of tissue that may appear on the gums of some pregnant ladies, especially in the second trimester. They are non-cancerous hemorrhagic swellings that are believed to be related to excess plaque and occur mostly in the gums of pregnant women, states an article in the Journal of International Oral Health (JIOH). The ADA describes these growths as red, raw-looking raspberry-like in appearance that bleed easily. They usually disappear before your baby is born, but if you wanted to get them removed, you can talk to your dentist for a minor procedure.
Dental care during pregnancy
Regular dental procedures may seem worrisome during pregnancy. Are you concerned about a dental procedure potentially harming your baby? Let’s get rid of false information and be aware of the do’s and don’ts of dental care during pregnancy, with 4Smile.
- Periodontal Therapy
Deep cleaning procedures like teeth scaling and root planing for periodontitis using local anesthetics are just as needed during pregnancy as they are other times. Research suggests that essential dental treatments as such do not increase the adverse fetal outcomes, instead may even lower preterm birth rates. Additionally, another clinical study found that treatments for plaque control, accompanied by daily rinsing with 0.12%chlorhexidine and daily brushing and flossing significantly reduced the incidence of preterm birth.
Furthermore, the clinical recommendations released by the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP) and the European Federation of Periodontology (EFP) state that non-surgical periodontal therapy such as scaling and root planing is safe for pregnant women, further contributing to improved periodontal health. Professional dental prophylaxis must be ideally done during the second trimester as it may become difficult to lie on your back for an extended period of time once you reach the third trimester.
- Local anesthetics
If you are pregnant and need a filling, root canal, or an emergency dental procedure, you do not have to worry about the safety of the numbing medications used during these procedures. They are, in fact, safe for your baby. Currently, no conflicting studies about the use of regular anesthetics (lidocaine) during dental procedures have been brought to light. A study published in the Journal of the American Dental Association further proved that the use of anesthetics like lidocaine shots on pregnant women caused no difference in the rate of miscarriages, birth defects, prematurity, or weight of the baby. However, it is advised that if dental work is needed, the amount of anesthesia administered should be as little as possible unless you are experiencing pain.
- Dental x-rays
Dental x-rays during pregnancy are considered safe with appropriate shielding. Although radiation from dental x-rays is extremely low, your dentist will most likely cover you with a leaded apron to minimize exposures to your abdomen. According to the American College of Radiology, no single diagnostic x-ray has a radiation dose significant enough to cause adverse effects in a developing fetus.
Poor oral hygiene habits may cause problems associated with premature birth, preeclampsia, and gestational diabetes. It is of prime importance that your brush twice a day as per the recommendations of the ADA. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and a fluoridated toothpaste to scrub thoroughly at your teeth. Flossing and using a fluoride-enriched mouthwash will also help restabilize the pH of your mouth while also helping to relieve morning sickness and a sensitive gag reflex. 4Smile can connect you with many expert dentists who can evaluate your dental conditions during pregnancy. Contact us now!