Dental Care is Safe and Encouraged During Pregnancy

Dental care
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Pregnancy is an exciting time where women are focusing on the health of two. Prenatal care is essential for the optimal health of both mom and baby – and this should include proper dental care. Oral infection in pregnant women due to gum disease is linked to preterm birth and low-birth weight babies.

However, going to the dentist brings up another fear. How safe is it to have dental cleanings or other dental work while pregnant? Are the x-rays, anesthetics, or other materials used dangerous for my baby?

There is no need to worry, states Dr. Diana Cheng, vice chairwoman of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ Committee on Health Care for Underserved Women.

"We can all reassure our patients that routine teeth cleanings, dental X-rays and local anesthesia are safe during pregnancy," says Dr. Cheng. "Pregnancy is not a reason to delay root canals or filling cavities if they are needed because putting off treatment may lead to further complications."

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There is no reason to postpone a dental cleaning that occurs during pregnancy – and if you are going to the dentist every six months as recommended, one of these appointments is most likely to occur at some point during your nine months. But unfortunately, the ACOG finds that 35% of all women say they haven’t seen a dentist in the past year and about 40% of pregnant women in the US have cavities or gum disease.

Dental work while pregnant such as cavity fillings and crowns is safe as well, and should be performed to reduce the chance of infection. Even more invasive work such as a root canal or tooth extraction should not be postponed. Your dentist will work with you to administer only a minimum amount of anesthesia (Lidocaine can cross the placenta after administration) to reduce the risks as much as possible.

On the other hand, elective treatments, such as tooth whitening or other cosmetic procedures, should be postponed until after the birth. Even if risks are minimal, it is best to wait to be on the safe side.

X-rays, if simply routine, can be postponed until after the birth. But if necessary for an emergency dental procedure, the American College of Radiology state that a single diagnostic x-ray is safe and does not have enough radiation to cause adverse effects in a developing embryo or fetus.

Dr. Cheng advises all obstetricians to question a woman about her dental health during the initial prenatal visits. "We want ob-gyns to routinely counsel all of their patients, including pregnant women, about the importance of oral health to their overall health," she states.

Reference: American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Dental X-Rays, Teeth Cleanings = Safe During Pregnancy, July 26, 2013

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