Can I go to the dentist while pregnant?
Not only can you go to the dentist during pregnancy – you should! Leaving tooth decay, gum disease and other oral health problems untreated can be harmful. Your dental health has a big impact on your overall health, which means it can have a big influence on your baby too.
Even when you're not pregnant, we advise making regular trips to the dentist. For many people, a check-up every six months is best, but your circumstances may dictate how frequently you should go. So it's especially important when you're dealing with hormone changes and cravings that can put your oral health at greater risk. Your dentist will often recommend making several appointments during your pregnancy so they can check the condition of your teeth and gums, recommend adjustments to your oral care routine or carry out any treatments needed.
If you're planning to get pregnant soon, it's a good idea to visit your dentist and get any outstanding dental issues such as impacted wisdom teeth taken care of first, to reduce the risk of complications.
Gum disease and pregnancy
Many women can develop gum disease during pregnancy because of natural hormonal changes in the body. If gum disease becomes severe, the infection can affect an unborn baby’s development. Severe gum disease in an expectant mother can increase the risk of premature birth and of delivering a low birth weight baby. There may be possible long-term health risks for a child born prematurely or of low birth weight.
Signs of gum disease include bleeding gums, red gums (instead of pink), swollen gums and bad breath. If you suspect you may have gum disease, talk to a dentist or an oral health professional. Gum disease can be treated.
Dealing with food cravings and morning sickness
Unusual food cravings are a fact of life for many women during pregnancy. If your cravings take a turn towards the sweet end of things, try to limit the sugary snacks and instead, choose healthier options such as fresh fruit with natural or Greek yoghurt.
If you suffer from morning sickness, you need to know that vomit is highly acidic and can cause irreversible damage to your teeth. Tempting though it is to brush your teeth straight after a bout of morning sickness, it's best to wait an hour or so as brushing too soon can strip away the enamel, which is the softened protective coating of your teeth, leaving them more vulnerable to decay and sensitivity. While you're waiting, try rinsing your mouth with water to remove the acids, chew sugar-free gum or try eating an acid-neutralising food such as milk or hard cheese.
Brushing and flossing
Maintaining your usual oral health routine is even more important when you’re pregnant since hormonal changes mean that you have an increased susceptibility to gum inflammations and infections. Some women develop “pregnancy gingivitis”, where gums swell and become more sensitive and bleed during brushing and flossing. Should this happen to you, your dentist is able to keep a close eye on your gums and help you manage the condition. Generally this condition will resolve itself after you have your baby.
Are x-rays safe?
One of the most common concerns people have about visiting the dentist while pregnant is being exposed to radiation from x-rays.
However, modern dental x-rays use very low doses of radiation and a single dose is not usually high enough to cause any adverse effects in the development of the foetus. Your dentist will also make sure your baby is shielded from the radiation by using a lead apron and thyroid guard.
Although x-rays are safe, your dentist may still recommend avoiding them during the first trimester if you're only having a routine check-up. But if you have a dental emergency or a severe, non-specific pain, x-rays could still be needed to help your dentist plan your treatment effectively.
Make seeing your dentist a priority
It is important to keep teeth and gums healthy during and after pregnancy to stop gum disease that could lead to premature birth or a low birth weight baby, and stop transfer of decay-causing bacteria from you to your baby. Your child will be less likely to suffer early childhood decay. You should maintain regular check-ups and cleanings. Your dentist is well-versed in which medications you can safely take while pregnant, and which procedures can be safely done at different stages of pregnancy.
Reference: Australian Dental Association