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Pregnancy and dental work:Is it safe?

It’s easy to understand that expectant mothers are concerned about their health and the health of their babies. This often leads to worry about whether they should or shouldn’t do certain things, such as getting routine dental care.

You should see your dentist every 6 months for an exam and cleaning. This is true even if you are pregnant. In fact, it may be even more important for moms-to-be to visit the dentist because the changes in hormones can put them at risk for dental problems.1

You can learn more about this in our article Advice for expectant moms: Pregnancy and dental health. But for now, let’s quickly go over some common issues with dental health and pregnancy. Then we'll cover the dental work needed to correct them.

Dental issues during pregnancy

Higher risk of cavities and gingivitis Giving in to cravings for sugary foods can lead to cavities and gingivitis, or gum disease. If you have morning sickness, that can also be hard on your teeth. The stomach acids that come up can eat away at the outer surface of your teeth if not rinsed away.2

Pregnancy gingivitis Even if you avoid sweets and are good about your dental care, hormonal changes can cause some women to develop pregnancy gingivitis. This can cause sore and bleeding gums.3

Loose teeth The ligaments and bones that hold your teeth in place can also be affected by pregnancy hormones. Your teeth may become loose.4

Pregnancy tumors These non-cancerous tumors can appear between your teeth while pregnant. They can often become sore and bleed when brushing your teeth. These tumors may be caused by too much plaque.5

Any of these conditions may make it necessary for you to have a dental procedure during pregnancy. But there is no reason to be concerned. Let’s review how you can safely get the dental care you need.

Pregnancy and dental cleanings

Regular cleanings and checkups let your dentist find any signs of cavities or gum disease. Keeping these appointments is important during pregnancy. It can help you avoid normal dental problems plus prevent or catch any pregnancy-related dental issues.

Is it safe to have dental X-rays while pregnant?

Along with the exam, your dentist may want to get X-rays of your mouth.

You may feel nervous about how X-rays might affect your baby. According to the American Dental Association, dental X-rays during pregnancy are safe when lead aprons are used.6

The amount of radiation for dental X-rays is very low and the lead aprons help keep you and baby safe.

Can you get fillings while you're pregnant?

The good news is that experts like the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have agreed that filling cavities and getting crowns is safe, and even important to prevent related infections.7

There has been some discussion about the safety of the materials used for fillings. The issue is amalgams, or silver-colored fillings. These are the less-expensive, more durable fillings usually covered by insurance. Amalgams are made of a combination of metals and mercury, which is the cause of concern. But a study in the Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA) reported that there is no proof that having amalgam fillings during pregnancy produces any brain or behavior problems in infants.8

If you are concerned, ask for composite fillings instead. These are white or tooth-colored fillings. They are less durable than amalgam and can stain. They are also more expensive, so composite fillings may not be covered by insurance.

Talk to your dentist. He or she will help you make the choice that’s best for you and your baby.

Is it safe to use local anesthetics during pregnancy?

Another report from JADA found that there was no evidence to suggest that the use of local anesthetics (such as lidocaine shots) was harmful.9 And since we know it's important to take care of cavities and gum disease to prevent infection during pregnancy, you can feel confident that local anesthetics are safe.

Medicines prescribed by your dentist

If a problem is discovered, your dentist may prescribe pain medication or antibiotics. As long as your dentist knows you are expecting, and is aware of any other medicines or vitamins you are taking, there should be no cause for worry.

The bottom line about pregnancy and dental work

Now you know: routine dental procedures are safe for both mom and baby when the proper precautions are taken. And in some cases, they are needed to help prevent dental infections from starting or getting worse.

You may want to postpone other dental work, especially non-critical treatments like tooth whitening or cosmetic procedures. Since they aren’t really necessary, why not wait until after your baby is born?

Remember, you always have the option of checking with your obstetrician if you are concerned about any of these issues.

Finally, for your own comfort and peace of mind, you may want to consider seeing your dentist early in your pregnancy. This can help uncover any dental issues and allow you to plan for any needed dental work. Plus, you may be more comfortable sitting in a dental chair in your first or second trimester than your third.

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