Oral health care in pregnancy

By Cindy Naime, DDS

During pregnancy, your body goes through a lot a of changes. As the weeks go by, you feel
how this little person is growing inside of you. It is understandable to do whatever it takes to
have a healthy pregnancy. You go to your primary care provider, you take supplements, regular
checks. Have you ever consider to visit your Dentist though?

I have heard several times the following: “I am not having X-rays because I am pregnant”, “I will
wait after my delivery to get a dental cleaning done”. Though there are considerations taken
when treating a pregnant patient, there is no reason to avoid oral health care.

Things you can do

The first step is to keep your mouth clean properly. It sounds obvious but is more important
than you may think. Gum disease may be aggravated during pregnancy since there is an
increase in estrogen and progesterone in your body. You may feel your gums sensitive and they
might bleed more than usual despite of a “good oral hygiene”. When this condition is left
untreated, evolves to Periondontitis which is when the bone that holds your teeth in place is
affected. Periodontitis has been associated to pre-term delivery and/or Low birth- weight baby.
Besides your gums, you need to take care of your teeth as well. Morning sickness can expose
your teeth to stomach acid resulting in erosion of the surfaces of your teeth as well as an
increased risk of tooth decay. If you vomit from morning sickness, you should rinse your mouth
with water right after vomitting. Wait 30 minutes to reduce the acid in your mouth and brush
your teeth. It is recommended to pregnant patients to brush their teeth with a soft toothbrush
at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and floss daily. In addition, it is important to
schedule an appointment for a dental checkup and a dental cleaning in your first trimester. In
this way, your Dentist may be able to recommend any treatment if necessary. Make sure you let
the Dental Office staff know that you are pregnant so they can take the necessary precautions.

Type of dental visits during pregnancy
Dental care at the Office can be divided in three categories: Emergency care, Elective care and
Dental hygiene. Emergency care and dental cleanings can be safely performed at any time of
pregnancy for pain relief and infection control. Elective care are best performed after the
second or third trimester such as fillings or extractions only if they are necessary.
If X-rays are needed for diagnosis, they can be safely taken any time of the pregnancy as well.
You can trust your oral care provider as every dental office follows the principle of obtaining
radiographs “as low as reasonable achievable (ALARA)” and they are all equipped with
protective lead aprons with thyroid collars.

What the Dental staff can do to provide comfort during your appointment

Moving on to the Dental office setting, you may find the dental chair not the most comfortable
place to sit on for 40-60 minutes. In fact, some pregnant patients are susceptible to postural
hypotension which is characterized as lightheadedness, weakness, sweating, restlessness,
pallor, decrease in blood pressure and fainting when the dental chair is reclined to a completely
horizontal position. To prevent this situation, a small pillow can be placed under your right hip
so you would roll on your left side by about 15o. In this way, the compression of the uterus onto
the inferior vena cava is avoided.

Image: https://www.sciencedirect.com

Pregnancy should never be considered as an absolute reason to postpone dental care. In fact,
to maintain a proper oral health, it is necessary the cooperation of the client herself, the dentist
and the primary care provider.

Author: Cindy Naime, DDS
Family Dentist at Laird Dental and Associates
Email: Dr.cindynaime@gmail.com