Yes and no is the answer to the common question of whether or not dental work while pregnant is safe. Here is why:
- Yes. It is not only safe but also important to keep attending for check-ups. Your teeth and gums may require more attention than usual while pregnant. Routine dental work such as gum cleaning and dressing early cavities should be carried out if normal. A healthy mouth is better for your pregnancy.
- No. Certain dental work, medications and X-rays may be best avoided while you are pregnant. Your dentist will advise you on these.
So, you should definitely attend your dentist while pregnant. See the reasons listed below. But there may be certain procedures that will be avoided.
In terms of dental work or treatment while pregnant:
- Most routine work poses no risks to you or your baby.
- Major treatment, such as prolonged cosmetic work or surgical procedures are generally best left until after pregnancy.
- If a filling is needed, amalgam is usually not the filling material that us used.
Towards the very end of your pregnancy, it is probably best not to visit the dentist unless necessary. At this time, any stress from dental work or treatment may bring on premature labor (although this is unlikely).
Also, while heavily pregnant you may find the dental chair to be uncomfortable and lying back for long periods can restrict circulation. This is caused by pressure from the baby lying over a large vein in the mother’s abdomen.
“Why Attend the Dentist While Pregnant?”
As mentioned, this is a time of your life when your teeth and gums are vulnerable. It is therefore important to have your teeth checked. Having regular check-ups may help reduce any problems you could encounter both during and after pregnancy. It is increasingly apparent that having a healthy mouth could also help to keep your baby healthy.
- As your gums are at higher risk of problems, having problems diagnosed and treated early is of great importance. ‘Pregnancy gingivitis’ is a common problem that needs extra attention. Professional cleaning is important to reduce this gum problem
- Evidence suggests that mothers with a healthy mouth are at reduced risk of premature and low-weight babies than those with problems in their mouths
- Periodontal disease is the major dental problem that can affect the fetus. Any deep dental cleaning that is needed (to treat the disease) while pregnant is best carried out in the second trimester
- If you have any early damage to teeth from reduced oral hygiene, vomiting or diet changes while pregnant; your dentist will detect these and advise you to help reduce further damage
- If you develop any tooth decay this can be treated. This dental work is usually best done so in the second trimester. Temporary treatment can also be provided and the work finished after the baby is born. Leaving cavities untreated can result in more advanced treatment being needed. Such cavities may also lead to pain and infection later in pregnancy.
Emergency Dental Work While Pregnant
Urgent dental problems that may occur include:
- Dental pain.
- Broken teeth, lost fillings or other broken dental treatments.
If a problem arises, attend your dentist. Your dentist will advise you on the best and safest treatment. Any delay may make the problem worse and potentially cause a risk to you and your baby. Pain and infection can cause stress to you and your baby and can be a danger if not treated.
If you have an infection, some types of antibiotics are safe to be used. Your dentist will prescribe the smallest dose needed.
Care must be taken with the amount of local anesthetic used for dental work on pregnant women. Also sedative drugs and nitrous oxide are generally avoided during pregnancy.
X-rays While Pregnant
X-rays should not be taken while pregnant, unless absolutely necessary. Such a necessity may include a dental emergency where finding the source of the problem (e.g. a dental infection) is very important. Here an x-ray is needed as the risks of not finding the problem outweigh the minimal risks of taking a dental radiograph.
Your dentist will protect the baby with a lead apron and only take the smallest number of X-rays needed.
Medications while pregnant/ breastfeeding
As a general rule any medicines, including those used for dental problems, are best avoided if possible during pregnancy. However, sometimes it is necessary to take a medicine if a condition occurs that may put your baby at risk if left untreated.
There are guidelines on which drugs can be used when pregnant and breast-feeding. Your dentist will advise you on what medicines are considered relatively safe, and which should be completely avoided.
In summary, attend your dentist for routine check-ups. They will watch for any damage/disease and help you avoid long term problems. If you have any urgent problems, do not hesitate in attending the dentist. Some dental work while pregnant is safe while other procedures may be left until after your baby is born. Always inform your dentist if you are, or might be, pregnant.