Pregnancy is a time for many healthcare visits. It can be tempting for patients to skip dental check-ups during this time, but it’s an appointment that shouldn’t be put off.
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Why? “Pregnancy puts patients at risk for dental problems, so it’s important to continue getting oral care,” says Cleveland Clinic Ob/Gyn Julian Peskin, MD.
In this Q&A, Dr. Peskin shares tips for talking with your patients about pregnancy and oral health.
The importance of dental hygiene in pregnancy
Q. How does pregnancy increase a patient’s risk for dental problems?
A. The increased hormone load in pregnancy can cause swollen gums, which can trap food and result in gum disease or infection. Morning sickness is another hormone-driven concern. The acid in vomit can eat away at tooth enamel. Morning sickness can also make patients less likely to brush their teeth, because the gag reflex and nausea are so strong. Patients should be encouraged to maintain proper dental hygiene throughout pregnancy.
Q. What should an oral care regimen look like during pregnancy?
A. The keys to good oral health are the same whether or not patients are pregnant: they should b\rush twice daily with fluoridated toothpaste and continue to floss. They may also use a fluoridated mouthwash that doesn’t contain alcohol.
Dental and periodontal care during pregnancy
Q. Should patients seek dental care during pregnancy?
A. The benefits of seeing a dentist far outweigh the risks. If a patient needs:
- Routine care: If patients are getting an X-ray, they should let the dentist know they are pregnant. They will use a lead apron to protect your developing fetus and your thyroid.
- Fillings or extractions: There is no risk to these procedures. Local anesthetics are safe in pregnancy.
- Considerable dental work: It’s probably best to do it in the second or third trimester when patients are not usually experiencing as much nausea, vomiting or gag reflex.
Q. Are there risks to the pregnancy if a patient doesn’t see the dentist?
A. Severe periodontal disease can result in potential complications to pregnancy. Many studies link periodontal disease to:
Q. Is it safe to have dental work done while pregnant?
A. Some procedures can’t wait, like treatment for an abscess. It’s perfectly fine to have gum surgery or other major dental work performed during pregnancy. Patients should alert the dentist so they can choose an antibiotic that is safe during pregnancy.