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Pregnancy and Oral Health

Everything You Always Wanted To Know — But Never Knew To Ask

By Dr. Enrique Bimstein and Dr. Joseph Katz


It is important to see a dentist for an evaluation of oral and dental health as soon as you know you are pregnant to determine if any dental care is necessary.

Dental Treatment During Pregnancy

It is important to see a dentist for an evaluation of oral and dental health as soon as you know you are pregnant to determine if any dental care is necessary. Dental emergencies should always be managed as they arise to treat pain and infection to eliminate stress and danger to the developing fetus. The necessity for sedation or general anesthesia may warrant consultation with the mother's obstetrician.

If possible, elective (non-urgent) care is best timed if possible, between the first trimester and second half of the third trimester. The first trimester is the period when most of the baby's organs are forming and when the fetus is most susceptible to environmental influences. In the last half of the second trimester, it may just be less comfortable to sit in the dental chair.

Dental radiographs.

Dental radiographs (x-rays) may be needed for dental treatment or a dental emergency that can't wait. Untreated dental infections can pose a risk to the fetus, as well as to the mother. Radiation from dental radiographs (x-rays) is extremely low, however, every precaution is taken to minimize radiation exposure. A leaded apron including collar, shields against exposure to the abdomen and particularly the thyroid gland in the neck (which produces thyroxin hormone responsible for controlling the body's rate of metabolism or function). Dental radiographs are not contraindicated if one is trying to become pregnant or breast-feeding.

Medication During Pregnancy

Drugs taken by a pregnant woman can affect the developing fetus. In 1979 the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), established a classification system to rate fetal risk levels associated with many prescription drugs. Additionally references such as the American Dental Association (ADA) guide to Dental Therapeutics and others have good information. Most commonly used drugs in dentistry including local anesthetics, can be given with relative safety, with a few notable exceptions. For example, the antibiotic tetracycline can permanently discolor developing teeth.

Maintaining Your Oral and Dental Health During Pregnancy

It's especially important to maintain good oral health during pregnancy. Studies indicate that pregnant women who have severe periodontal (gum) disease may be at increased risk for pre-term delivery, which in turn increases the risk of having a low-birth-weight baby. For individuals who have periodontal (gum) disease there is also increased risk for cardio-vascular disease, diabetes and respiratory disease.

To maintain a healthy body, make sure you maintain your oral health. Prevent tooth decay and periodontal disease by brushing your teeth thoroughly twice a day to remove plaque using fluoride toothpaste. Be sure to clean between your teeth daily with floss or other inter-dental (between teeth) cleaners. Maintain a healthy diet, exercise and get plenty of sleep. See your dentist regularly during your pregnancy and make sure that you take care of any urgent dental treatment. Then visit your dentist regularly throughout pregnancy for routine monitoring and cleanings. If you notice any changes in your mouth during pregnancy, see your dentist.

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