The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has issued statements advising their patients to see a dentist during pregnancy. The ACOG confirmed that teeth cleanings, local anesthesia and X-rays (with protective apron shielding of the abdomen and thyroid) are safe for pregnant women. The American Dental Association agrees that oral health care during pregnancy is safe and needed.
A woman’s health care needs change throughout her life. Different concerns exist during puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, menopause and post-menopause
Q: Why is dental care important if I’m planning to have a baby or if I’m pregnant?
A: If a mother has active decay in her mouth it increases the chances of her baby having tooth decay. Her mouth bacteria can be passed to her children and one of the reasons her children will have cavities. Pregnancy can cause gum problems and tooth erosion. Up to 3 out of 4 pregnant women have gingivitis due to hormonal changes.
Q: What are Periodontitis and Periodontal Disease?
A: Periodontal disease is an infection of the tissues that surround teeth. It is caused by the accumulation of bacteria (long term plaque). It’s progressive, causing the structures that support teeth to break down (gums, jaw bone and attachment to the roots). As gums are damaged, pockets develop around the teeth. Untreated, more gum is destroyed and infection spreads down the roots to infect bone. Even healthy teeth become loose, fall out or need to be extracted. Periodontitis is the primary cause of adults losing their teeth.
Gingivitis is the milder and reversible form of periodontal disease, with no bone loss, yet.
Untreated gingivitis can progress to chronic periodontitis. Oral infections need to be treated during pregnancy.
Q: What is tooth enamel erosion?
A: Acid erosion begins with enamel demineralization, dissolving of the outer enamel surface of the tooth. Enamel is the hardest surface in the human body.
Frequent vomiting can cause enamel demineralization from direct exposure to stomach acid. Rinse your mouth after vomiting, but don’t brush for about half an hour. Allow the enamel to remineralize and be less soft.
Early demineralization can be reversed with dental office and home application of prescription fluoride and calcium phosphate gels and varnishes.
Q: How do I take care of my teeth and gums when I find out I’m pregnant.
A: You need to do three things.
- Make an appointment with your dentist if it’s been six months or when you are due for an examination and professional cleaning. Tooth decay and periodontal disease can be treated.
- Step up your home brushing and flossing regimen. Use preventative products (fluoride rinses, gels, etc.) to prevent the onset of tooth decay.
- Drink at least 8 ounces of fluoridated tap water a day. This gives the babies forming teeth cavity preventing fluoride.
Oral health care is a part of your overall well being and should be maintained before, during and after pregnancy and throughout a woman’s lifetime.