Pregnancy and Dentistry
PREGNANCY AND DENTAL WORK: Common Questions
In lieu of recent press about pregnancy and dentistry, I figured I would share some professional insight. Recent press:
Prevention is the key
- Preventive dental cleanings and annual exams during pregnancy are not only safe, but are recommended. The rise in hormone levels during pregnancy causes the gums to swell, bleed, and trap food causing increased irritation to your gums. Preventive dental work is essential to avoid oral infections such as gum disease, which has been linked to preterm birth.
What about other regular dental work during pregnancy?
- Dental work such as cavity fillings and crowns should be treated to reduce the chance of infection. If dental work is done during pregnancy, the second trimester is ideal. Once you reach the third trimester, it may be very difficult to lie on your back for an extended period of time.
- The safest course of action is to postpone all unnecessary dental work until after the birth. However, sometimes emergency dental work such as a root canal or tooth extraction is necessary.
- Elective treatments, such as teeth whitening and other cosmetic procedures, should be postponed until after the birth. It is best to avoid exposing the developing baby to any risks, even if they are minimal.
What about medications used in dental work during pregnancy?
- Currently, there are conflicting studies about possible adverse effects on the developing baby from medications used during dental work. Lidocaine is the most commonly used drug for dental work. Lidocaine (Category B) does cross the placenta after administration.
- If dental work is needed, the amount of anesthesia administered should be as little as possible, but still enough to make you comfortable. If you are experiencing pain, request additional numbing. When you are comfortable, the amount of stress on you and the baby is reduced. Also, the more comfortable you are, the easier it is for the anesthesia to work.
- Dental work often requires antibiotics to prevent or treat infections. Antibiotics such as penicillin, amoxicillin, and clindamycin, which are labeled category B for safety in pregnancy, may be prescribed after your procedure.
What about x-rays used in dental work during pregnancy?
- Routine x-rays, usually taken during annual exams, can usually be postponed until after the birth. X-rays are necessary to perform many dental procedures, especially emergencies. According to the American College of Radiology, no single diagnostic x-ray has a radiation dose significant enough to cause adverse effects in a developing embryo or fetus.
- Fetal organ development occurs during the first trimester; it is best to avoid all potential risks at this time if possible. If non-emergency dental work is needed during the third trimester, it is usually postponed until after the birth. This is to avoid the risk of premature labor and prolonged time lying on your back.
Suggestions for addressing your dental needs during pregnancy: The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends that pregnant women eat a balanced diet, brush their teeth thoroughly with an ADA-approved fluoride toothpaste twice a day, and floss daily
- Have preventive exams and cleanings during your pregnancy
- Let your dentist know you are pregnant
- Postpone non-emergency dental work until the second trimester or until after delivery, if possible
- Elective procedures should be postponed until after the delivery
- Maintain healthy circulation by keeping your legs uncrossed while you sit in the dentist's chair