The American Dental Association, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Academy of Pediatrics encourage women to get dental care while pregnant.
“It is a crucial period of time in a woman’s life and maintaining oral health is directly related to good overall health,” says Aharon Hagai, D.M.D.
It’s very important to take care of your teeth and gums during pregnancy. Getting a dental checkup is not only safe but vital for your oral and overall health and your baby’s health, too! During pregnancy, your dentist can clean your teeth and attend to any procedures that are needed such as cavity fillings. She will help with pregnancy related symptoms, questions and concerns you might be having and prepare you to care for your baby’s mouth and teeth.
Some common concerns women have about going to the dentist during pregnancy from the American Dental Association (ADA):
When should I tell my dentist I’m pregnant?
As soon as you know you’re pregnant, make an appointment with your dentist. Let her know how far along your are, if your pregnancy is high-risk and if you have any medical conditions so that she can make informed decisions about your care.
How might pregnancy affect my mouth?
While some women may not have any changes in their dental health during pregnancy, pregnancy can worsen some conditions and create new ones, so regular checkups and good dental habits are critical to keeping you and your baby healthy.
The hormonal changes associated with pregnancy increase the risk of gum disease (pregnancy gingivitis). Some women (about 40%) develop “pregnancy gingivitis,” a mild form of gum disease sometime during their pregnancy. Usually, gum inflammation appears between the second and eighth month of pregnancy. Symptoms of gingivitis include swelling, redness and tenderness. Your gums also may bleed a little when you brush or floss. Left untreated, gingivitis can lead to more serious forms of gum disease. Your dentist may recommend more frequent cleanings to prevent this.
Increased Risk of Tooth Decay
For a number of reasons, Pregnant women may be more prone to cavities.. If you’re eating more carbohydrates than usual, this can cause decay. Morning sickness can increase the amount of acid your mouth is exposed to, which can eat away at the outer covering of your tooth (enamel) and result in more cavities. Brushing 2x/day and flossing once may fall by the wayside during pregnancy due to morning sickness, tender gums, a more sensitive gag reflex and fatigue. But it’s especially important to keep up your regular routine – poor dental habits during pregnancy have been associated with premature delivery, intrauterine growth restriction, gestational diabetes and preeclampsia.
In some women, overgrowths of tissue called “pregnancy tumors” appear on the gums, most often during the second trimester. They are benign swellings, most often occurring between teeth and sometimes related to excess plaque. These swellings bleed easily and have a red, raw-looking appearance – they look like raspberries. They usually disappear after your baby is born, but if you are concerned, talk to your dentist about removing them.
Did you know that your baby’s teeth will begin to develop between the third and sixth months? You will need a sufficient quantity of nutrients—especially vitamins A, C, and D, protein, calcium and phosphorous, both for you and your baby.
While it’s normal for pregnant woman to have the desire to eat more, frequent snacking can be an invitation to tooth decay. Choose foods that are low in sugar and nutritious for you and your baby such as raw fruits and vegetables, yogurt, or cheese, and make sure to follow your physician’s advice regarding diet and supplements.
X-rays are safe
Dental X-rays are sometimes necessary if you suffer a dental emergency or need a dental problem diagnosed. You will be covered with a leaded apron that minimizes exposure to the abdomen. Your dental office will also whenever possible cover your throat with a leaded thyroid collar to protect the thyroid from radiation.
If you have morning sickness and are vomiting frequently, try rinsing with a teaspoon of baking soda mixed with water to stop stomach acid from attacking your teeth.
After your baby is born
Continue taking care of your mouth and your baby’s mouth, too. Although newborns usually have no visible teeth, most baby teeth generally begin to appear about six months after birth. Begin cleaning your baby’s mouth during the first few days after birth by wiping the gums with a clean, moist gauze pad or washcloth.
The ADA recommends parents take children to a dentist no later than their first birthday. Here’s what you can do at home to start healthy habits:
Before teeth appear
Wipe your baby’s gums with a clean, moist gauze pad or washcloth. As soon as teeth appear, decay can occur.
When do my baby’s teeth appear?
A baby’s front four teeth usually push through the gums at about 6 months of age, although some children don’t have their first tooth until 12 or 14 months.
Brushing my child’s teeth
Until you’re comfortable that your child can brush on his or her own, continue to brush your child’s teeth twice a day with a child-size toothbrush and a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste.
For children younger than 3 years, caregivers should begin brushing children’s teeth as soon as they begin to come into the mouth by using fluoride toothpaste in an amount no more than a smear or the size of a grain of rice. Brush teeth thoroughly twice per day (morning and night) or as directed by a dentist or physician. Supervise children’s brushing to ensure that they use of the appropriate amount of toothpaste.
For children 3 to 6 years of age, use a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. Brush teeth thoroughly twice per day (morning and night) or as directed by a dentist or physician. Supervise children’s brushing and remind them not to swallow the toothpaste.