Maintaining proper oral health care during pregnancy is very important for expecting mothers and their babies. Hormonal and other physiologic changes occurring during pregnancy can place a tremendous strain on a woman’s body including the mouth. Poor oral health of the mother before and during the pregnancy has been linked to poor outcomes such as premature or preterm births as well as low birthweight. Patients are encouraged to visit their dentists for routine dental checkups, cleanings and fillings. Even emergency treatments such as extractions, root canals or crowns can be safely performed during pregnancy and delaying such care may result in more complex problems.
Pregnancy and Periodontal Disease. Nearly 60% to 75% of pregnant women have gingivitis, an early stage of periodontal disease that occurs when the gums become red and swollen from inflammation that may be aggravated by hormonal changes during pregnancy. If gingivitis is not treated early on, the bone that supports the teeth can be lost and the gums can become infected. In some women, overgrowth of tissue called “pregnancy tumors” appear on the gums between the teeth. These are not cancers, but they may bleed easily and be painful. They can be treated and usually disappear after the baby is born.
Pregnancy and Dental Cavities. Pregnant women may be more prone to cavities and tooth decay for a number of reasons. Changes in a woman’s diet and oral hygiene habits during pregnancy can result in an increase in tooth decay. Increased snacking especially carbohydrate foods high in sugars and lead to an increase in acidity in the mouth which can cause decay. In addition, nausea and vomiting during pregnancy can also increase the amount of acid the mouth is exposed to which can eat away at the outer cover of the teeth (enamel) and can cause tooth decay. Treatment of tooth decay in pregnant women cannot only improve the oral health of the mother, but also helps to decrease the transmission of dental caries causing bacteria from the mother to the baby. The fact remains that one in 4 women of childbearing age have untreated cavities and children of mothers who have high levels of untreated cavities are more likely to have cavities as well.
X-rays During Pregnancy. Dental x-rays during pregnancy can be safely done. Routine x-rays, typically taken during annual exams, can usually be postponed until after the birth. X-rays may be needed to perform many dental procedures, especially emergency care. If they are needed, the dentist will use extreme caution to safeguard the mother and the baby by shielding the abdomen and thyroid. Advances in technology such as digital x-rays have made x-rays safer today than in past decades. According to the ADA (American Dental Association) and the ACOG (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) having dental x-rays during a pregnancy is considered safe with appropriate shielding.
In conclusion, improving the oral health of the pregnant woman by proper home care and by visiting the dentist has the potential to reduce complications of dental disease during pregnancy and to reduce the risk of early childhood tooth decay in their children. In addition, improving the oral health of pregnant women may also lead to a reduction in premature and low weight deliveries. It is vital that health professionals work together to ensure that pregnant women receive proper oral health education, counseling and access to dental services. Getting a dental checkup is safe during pregnancy and is very important for your dental health. Please contact your dentist and set up an appointment today.
“Life is tough enough without have someone kicking you from the inside.” Rita Rudner