With all of the pre-natal check-ups an expectant mother needs to fit into her schedule – not to mention the normal demands of daily life – it’s no wonder a trip to the dentist may not seem like a priority. Yet nine month is a long time to go without dental care, especially if you haven’t been recently. And what many moms-to-be don’t realize is that teeth and gums often undergo unique changes during pregnancy that shouldn’t be ignored.
New Dental Challenges
There are certain problems that can arise during pregnancy that you probably wouldn’t be facing if you normally take good care with brushing and flossing.Yet the same hormones that are crucial for ensuring your baby’s growth prior to birth can also wreak havoc with your teeth and gums. Among the potential pitfalls:
- New cavities. Morning sickness can bring enamel-threatening acidity to your teeth. In addition, unusual cravings can increase the amount of carbs and sweet foods that often turn to cavity-causing sugars in your mouth.
- Swollen gums. “Pregnancy gingivitis,” as it’s known, occurs when pregnancy hormones cause inflammation at the gum line. While the swelling might pass after labor, the damage from untreated gingivitis doesn’t go away if untreated.
- Excess plaque. Although the phenomenon of so-called “pregnancy tumors” sound alarming, in reality they’re temporary soft growths of tissue that may appear between your teeth, especially in the middle trimester. While these excess growths usually disappear after labor, the the small bits of food that can be trapped in the growths can cause lasting damage without thorough cleanings.
Protection for Two
While many mothers-to-be know that proper nutrition is crucial for a developing fetus, they may not realize that good dental care can also safeguard their babies.
If a pregnant woman experiences untreated deep cavities and severe gum disease, resulting infections can spread beyond the mouth — and into the mother’s system. These infections may create bodily stress resulting in premature labor. While the phenomenon is rare, it’s not a risk worth taking.
When to Be Cautious
Unless you have a serious dental emergency, the American Pregnancy Association advises to hold off on all but the brief routine visits in the final trimester. (That obviously includes rescheduling cosmetic procedures such as whitening or veneers.) That’s because complex dental procedures entail a long time reclined backwards. This position, when extended into hours, carries a slight chance of causing premature labor.
In general, the occasional X-ray, or a small amount of anesthesia, is currently considered safe throughout your pregnancy. It’s crucial to communicate with your dentist about how far along you are, medications you’re currently taking, and any problems you’ve had with the pregnancy.
Remember — if there’s any question about whether or not to go ahead with a non-routine procedure, we’re happy to confer with your obstetrician. Call our office today to schedule a routine cleaning and check-up, or to ask about the best timing for other dental procedures you may need during your pregnancy.