Pregnancy and Your Oral Health
It is important to maintain optimal oral hygiene while pregnant. This will ensure good oral health during your pregnancy and as well as a healthy start to your baby's life. Optimal oral health can be achieved through eating a balanced diet, regular brushing and flossing as well as frequent scheduled cleanings from your dental team.
It is normal to experience some changes in your oral health during pregnancy. These changes can included swelling or inflammation of your gum tissue (pregnancy gingivitis) or even growths of this gum tissue (pregnancy tumors). The primary cause of these changes are elevations in the hormones, estrogen and progesterone. These hormones can exaggerate the way gum tissues react to plaque. This plaque is the primary cause of gingivitis. This will most likely present as red swollen and tender gums. Most women will experience some form of pregnancy gingivitis during their pregnancy. Occasionally, this inflamed tissue will become irritated and form a pregnancy tumor. Pregnancy tumors are inflammatory, non cancerous growths that will disappear on their own after the baby is born. If the tumor interferes with normal chewing or becomes uncomfortable they can be removed.
Recent research suggests there may be a link between pre-term, low birth weight babies and gingivitis. This makes prevention of gingivitis that much more important during pregnancy. This can be done by following proper oral hygiene techniques at home and concentrating on keeping the gum-line clean. You should brush with fluoridated toothpaste at least twice a day and after each meal when possible. This should be combined with flossing thoroughly each day. Frequent and regular cleanings from the dentist will help control plaque and prevent gingivitis. Controlling plaque also will reduce gum irritation and decrease the likelihood of pregnancy tumors.
The best time to see the dentist is prior to becoming pregnant or when you suspect you may be pregnant. Your dentist will perform a thorough check up and create a treatment plan for the remainder of your pregnancy. This treatment plan will be aimed at maintaining optimal oral health, controlling disease and the prevention of problems. Non-invasive dental procedures such as dental cleanings can be performed at any time during your pregnancy. Routine dental work is usually postponed until after the baby is born. Dental emergencies that create severe pain such as a dental abscess can be treated during any trimester. Untreated dental infections can pose a risk to the fetus, and dental treatment may be necessary to maintain the health of the mother and child. These procedures require the administration of local anesthetics such as lidocaine, which are safe when given correctly and in the correct amounts.
A radiograph may be needed for dental treatment or a dental emergency that can't wait until after the baby is born. Radiation from dental x-rays is extremely low. Radiographs are safe provided the mother and baby are protected by the use of a lead apron and thyroid collar. Digital radiography will also reduce the level of radiation versus that of traditional x-rays.