Dental Care During PregnancyKeep That Glittering Smile
You may have heard that you lose a tooth for every pregnancy, but that’s just an old wives’ tale. Oral health is a reflection of your overall health, however, so maintaining proper dental care during pregnancy is especially important.
It’s quite common to have dental problems during pregnancy. Hormonal changes can make gum tissues more susceptible to the bacteria in plaque, leading to inflammation and bleeding gums. This “pregnancy gingivitis” can be prevented by brushing and flossing each day. Having your teeth professionally cleaned early in your pregnancy may help prevent most gum problems, too.
Frequent snacking on sugary foods can also contribute to gingivitis. Continually bathing the teeth in plaque and bacteria can cause your gums to swell and bleed, so if you're eating more often, make sure to brush your teeth more often as well.
The best way to improve gingivitis during pregnancy is to practice excellent oral hygiene. Remember the basics:
Proper dental care is especially important during pregnancy, since serious gum disease (periodontal disease) has been linked to premature birth and low birth weight. A study by the University of North Carolina showed that women with periodontal disease were seven times more likely to have a baby born too early or too small. Researchers believe that the bacteria that cause periodontal disease enter the bloodstream through the mouth and travel to the uterus, where they trigger the production of prostaglandins, which may cause premature labor. If a baby is born too soon, it can’t reach its full potential weight.
During your second trimester you may notice a red, raw, painless lump on your gums. This is called a “pregnancy tumor,” and although it isn’t cancerous, it should be taken seriously. These localized swellings are usually found between the teeth and are believed to be caused by excess plaque. Pregnancy tumors can be surgically removed after the baby is born if they haven’t subsided on their own.
What If I Need a Major Dental Treatment?
Regular dental care is important during pregnancy to prevent oral infections, such as gingivitis and periodontal disease, which might affect the baby. Most dentists recommend that you delay major dental treatments until after your baby is born, however. If your pregnancy isn’t obviously showing, be sure you inform your dentist when you arrive for your appointment, since some procedures or medications may be harmful to your unborn child.
If you have a dental emergency, by all means seek appropriate treatment. Although dental anesthetics such as novocaine or lidocaine can pass through the placenta, the doses used in most dental procedures are considered safe. If you do need an anesthetic, make sure it’s given in needle form, since inhaled or intravenous anesthetics increase the odds of miscarriage in the first trimester. Epinephrine is sometimes added to local anesthetics to make them last longer, but it's recommended that you avoid this use during pregnancy, since it can increase the risk of some minor birth defects.
Antibiotics such as penicillin, amoxicillin, and erythromycin are safe to use during pregnancy, but avoid tetracycline, which can permanently discolor your unborn child’s developing teeth.
Under emergency circumstances, an X-ray may be necessary to help your dentist determine the health of your teeth and jaw. If not having the x-ray done poses a risk to your health, then have the X-ray-- the risk will be minimal, since your uterus will be shielded with a lead apron.
What’s Good for You is Good for Your Baby
Generally speaking, if a dental procedure improves your overall health, it’s probably good for your baby as well, so go ahead with it during pregnancy. Unfortunately, most women don’t visit their dentist during pregnancy, even if they have dental problems. Remember-- taking care of yourself is the best way to ensure the health of your child, so do what’s best for both of you and maintain your regular dental care.
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