By Dr. Eli Prenzlau
Do you avoid going to your dentist while you’re pregnant? Relax! You can and should keep up with your dental appointments, as delaying treatment can cause further problems. Both the American Dental Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists agree that oral health care during pregnancy is both safe and important for you. Pregnancy can trigger oral health problems, including gum problems, and dental erosion.
During pregnancy, hormonal changes can increase the risk of developing gum-related problems. Gingivitis, or inflammation of the gums, may increase, and can cause your gums to swell and bleed. To prevent and treat this, you need to put in extra effort to care for both your teeth and gums.
Make sure to:
- Brush twice daily for two minutes with a toothpaste that contains fluoride.
- Clean between your teeth once daily with either floss or other interdental cleaners.
When left untreated, pregnancy gingivitis can develop into full-blown periodontitis: a condition where the infection spreads beneath the gum line. This can damage the tissues that hold your teeth in place, and without treatment, the teeth can actually loosen and may even fall out or need to be extracted.
Some women might even develop ‘lumps’ on their gums during pregnancy. These rarely hurt, but can disturb brushing and make it harder to keep your teeth clean. They typically go away after the baby is born, but if they interfere with taking care of your teeth, your dentist may suggest removing these lumps.
The loss of the hard, outer enamel layer of your teeth is called dental erosion. This can happen as a result of repeated exposure to acid—such as after frequent vomiting, which many women experience during their first trimester.
To prevent dental erosion caused by vomiting, rinse your mouth with a teaspoon of baking soda dissolved in 1 cup of water after you vomit. But don’t brush right away! The rinse will help stop the acid from attacking your teeth and will give the enamel on your teeth a chance to harden again. You can brush after about an hour.
Dental Radiographs (X- Rays)
X-rays are safe during pregnancy. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend the use of a protective lead apron to cover your throat and abdomen during radiographs. In my office, I use two aprons on all pregnant women, just to be on the safe side, and limit x-rays only to those that are absolutely necessary during the first trimester.
Safe options are available during pregnancy for local anesthetic, antibiotics and pain relief medications, as needed. Talk to your dentist regarding alternative drug therapy tha can be prescribed. Always double-check with your family physician or obstetrician regarding both the dosage and time these drugs may be taken.
Although treatment is safe throughout pregnancy, you may be most comfortable visiting your dentist during the second trimester. Nausea and vomiting could be a problem during the first trimester, and during the third trimester, you may be uncomfortable when the chair is reclined because of the weight of the baby. Make sure to tell your dentist if you are uncomfortable or feel light-headed during treatment, as the chair position can easily be adjusted to help you feel more comfortable.
In conclusion, don’t avoid treatment during pregnancy! See your dentist (and hygienist) regularly to help keep your mouth healthy. And last but not least, may you have an easy and comfortable pregnancy and birth. Besha’ah Tovah!
Dr. Prenzlau’s Oral Health Center in Jerusalem offers a full range of dental and oral health
treatments, including oral rehabilitation, implants and esthetic dentistry.
They are located on Rechov Azza 26 in Jerusalem and can be contacted at 02 566-0669