Dental Care During Pregnancy

Your Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy

It’s vitally important for you to take good care of your oral health while you are pregnant.  This is because pregnancy causes hormonal changes that increase your risk of developing gum disease, and because your oral health can affect the health of your developing baby.

Below are some suggestions for maintaining good oral health – as well as your baby’s health and safety – before, during and after your pregnancy.

Before your get pregnant

Make a dental appointment before getting pregnant (if possible).  In this way, your teeth can be professionally cleaned, your gum tissue can be carefully examined, and any oral health problems identified can be treated in advance of your pregnancy.

While your are pregnant

  • Tell your dentist (and doctor) if you know you are pregnant or are planning on becoming pregnant.  This will help your health care providers plan for any treatments or procedures.  It’s always best to complete any major dental treatment prior to pregnancy.  Routine dental care on the other hand, can be received during the second trimester.  As a precautionary measure, dental treatments during the first trimester and second half of the third trimester should be avoided as much as possible.  These are critical times in the baby’s growth and development, and it’s simply wise to avoid exposing the mother to procedures that could in any way “influence” the baby’s growth and development.  All elective dental procedures should be postponed until after the delivery.
  • Tell your dentist the names and dosages of all medicines you are taking – including medicines and prenatal vitamins prescribed by your doctor – as well as any specific medical advice your doctor has given you to follow.  Your dentist might need to alter your dental treatment plan based on this information.  Certain drugs – such as tetracycline – can affect the development of your child’s teeth and should not be given during pregnancy.
  • Avoid dental X-rays during pregnancy.  If X-rays are essential (such as in a dental emergency), your dentist will use extreme caution to safeguard you and your baby.  Advances in dentistry have made X-rays much safer today than in past decades.
  • Don’t skip your dental checkup appointment simply because you are pregnant and believe this appointment is not important.  Now more than any other time, regular periodontal exams are very important.  Pregnancy causes hormonal changes that put you at increased risk for periodontal disease and for tender gums that bleed easily – a condition called pregnancy gingivitis.  To remove irritants, control plaque, and maintain optimal oral health, you might actually benefit from more frequent professional cleanings during your second trimester or early third trimester rather than fewer dental visits.  Pay particular attention to any changes in your gums during pregnancy.  If tenderness, bleeding, or gum swelling occurs at any time during your pregnancy, talk with your dentist or periodontist as soon as possible.
  • Follow good oral hygiene practices to prevent and/or reduce gingival problems, including brushing your teeth at least twice a day and flossing at least once a day.  Use a good-quality, soft-bristled toothbrush.  Use a tooth paste that contains fluoride and brush for at least two minutes to remove the plaque that forms on your teeth.
  • If morning sickness is keeping you from brushing your teeth, change to a bland-tasting toothpaste during your pregnancy.  Ask your dentist or hygienist to recommend brands.
  • Rinse your mouth out with water or a mouth rinse if you suffer from morning sickness and have bouts of frequent vomiting.
  • Ask your dentist about the need for fluoride supplements.  Since fluoride is found in water and almost all brands of toothpaste, fluoride supplementation might not be necessary.
  • Avoid sugary snacks.  Sweet cravings are common during pregnancy.  However, keep in mind that the more frequently you snack, the greater the chance of developing tooth decay.  Additionally, some studies have shown that the bacteria responsible for tooth decay are passed from the mother to the child, so be careful of what you eat.
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet.  Your baby’s first teeth begin to develop about three months into your pregnancy.  Healthy diets containing dairy products, cheese and yogurt are good sources of these essential minerals and are good for your baby’s developing teeth, gums and bones.
  • Consult with your dentist or doctor about the need for anesthesia or other medicines should a dental emergency arise.  Make sure you tell all health care providers you come into contact with that you are pregnant.  This information could change their treatment plans.  Dental treatments that could be considered “emergency” are those that are necessary to ease your pain, prevent an infection or decrease stress on you or the fetus.