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Pregnancy and Dental Treatment: Pros and Cons

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Pregnancy and Dental Treatment: Pros and Cons
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By Dr. Nizar

One of the most controversial topics in dentistry is whether dental work is safe for pregnant women. The understanding of the importance of dental treatment, particularly preventive care, has dramatically evolved in the last few years. This article will highlight the critical role of dentistry in the everyday life of pregnant women and answer questions about the safety of dental interventions during pregnancy.

Is Having Dental Work During Pregnancy Safe?

Dental work questions are common for expecting moms. Preventive dental cleanings and annual exams during pregnancy are not only safe, but recommended. The rise in hormone levels during pregnancy can cause the gums to swell, bleed, and trap food, in turn causing increased irritation. Preventive dental work can help avoid oral infections such as gum disease. This is doubly important in view of a small study by the American Association for Dental Research which found gum disease may be linked to preterm birth.

What About Other Dental Work?

Dental work such as cavity fillings and crowns should be carried out 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 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 this dental work to avoid exposing the developing baby to any risks, even if they are minimal.

What About Medications?

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 anesthesia, and it crosses the placenta after administration.

If dental work is needed, the amount of anesthetic 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 relaxed you are, the easier it is for the anesthetic to work.

Dental work often requires antibiotics to prevent or treat infections. Antibiotics such as penicillin, amoxicillin, and clindamycin, which are generally considered safe during pregnancy, may be prescribed after your procedure.

What About X-rays?

Routine x-rays, typically taken during annual exams, can usually be postponed until after the birth. However, X-rays are necessary for 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. According to the American Dental Association, having dental X-rays during your pregnancy is considered safe with appropriate shielding.

Some women may elect to avoid dental work during the first trimester knowing this is the most vulnerable time of development. However, there is no evidence suggesting harm to the baby for those electing to visit the dentist during this time frame. 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 the discomfort caused by prolonged time lying on your back.

So, is it safe to visit your dentist while you are pregnant? For the most part, yes. Dental hygiene is critical for your health, and therefore your baby’s health as well. But any non-essential work should be postponed until after the birth.