Caring for your teeth and gums is an essential part of a healthy routine. Dental health is as important as eating a balanced, nutritious meal and participating in moderate exercise. Dental hygiene involves brushing your teeth at least twice a day with an American Dental Association (ADA) approved fluoride toothpaste and a good-quality, soft-bristled toothbrush as well as flossing once a day. In addition, the ADA recommends bi-annual, preventive dental cleanings and exams to safeguard against, readily identify, and establish treatment for any possible oral infections.
Maintaining good oral health is particularly important for pregnant women as there is a surge of hormones in pregnancy that have been associated with an increased risk of gum disease. This “pregnancy gingivitis” should be monitored and treated effectively as it has been linked to preterm birth. Care should be taken to maintain good oral health before and during pregnancy to avoid problems of gum irritants and plaque build-up that might cause tenderness, bleeding or gum swelling. Should these problems arise, women should consult a dentist immediately.
Although most dental care is safe at any time, if possible, it is best to have a dental check-up prior to pregnancy or during the second trimester of pregnancy. In a routine, preventive dental exam, you can have your teeth professionally cleaned and undergo any minimal-risk procedure such as a cavity filling or crown, without threat of harm to your baby. During pregnancy, a woman should take additional precautions not to expose the baby to any risk that might cause harm. Few dental procedures pose a risk to a developing baby; however, women should alert their dentist of their pregnancy and schedule dental appointments during the second trimester or after a pregnancy. During the first trimester or the second half of the third trimester when babies are undergoing considerable growth and development, women should avoid any dental procedures. Elective cosmetic treatments such as teeth whitening should be reserved for before or after pregnancy.
Should you require a dental procedure during pregnancy, it is likely that you will be treated with an antibiotic and/or anesthetic. Common antibiotics used to prevent or treat infections, such as penicillin, amoxicillin and clindamycin, are generally considered safe for Mom and baby. On the contrary, the commonly used anesthetic, lidocaine should be used with caution. Research shows that this drug does cross the placenta. Only the minimal amount needed to numb the area and make you comfortable should be used. Dental x-rays generally should be performed after pregnancy, unless there’s an emergency; in which case, precautions can be taken to limit the amount of radiation exposure.
Pregnant women can maintain good oral health by adhering to a few, simple at-home practices of eating diets rich in calcium, such as dairy products, cheese, and yogurt and by regularly brushing and flossing their teeth. These habits help strengthen and protect the teeth of Moms and the developing baby. Also, dental check-ups should be scheduled before and after pregnancy or in the second trimester of pregnancy, should the need arise. During these times, any oral infections can be treated and any required procedures can be performed with little or no risk to your baby.