If you will be welcoming a new baby in the new year or are planning to get pregnant in the near future, it’s important to understand how dental health and pregnancy are connected. Visiting the dentist for check-ups and cleanings during pregnancy is particularly important for your health and the health of your baby. Pregnancy brings great changes to your body, including your mouth, gums, and teeth. In turn, your oral health can also impact your wellbeing and the development of your baby. Read on to learn more about why dental care is so important during pregnancy. We will also dispel common myths about visiting the dentist while pregnant.
Dental Health Before Pregnancy
If having a baby is in your plans, you may want to focus on improving your dental health before pregnancy. At Sierra Smiles, we call this a healthy mouth baseline. The hormonal changes and symptoms you experience during pregnancy make it harder to maintain your oral health. A healthy mouth baseline gives you an advantage in combatting the effects pregnancy can have on your oral health. What does that look like? Our dentist can help you figure out your ultimate complete health goals, but some common indicators are:
- Eating and drinking without pain
- Teeth that are free of cavities
- Stable crowns and fillings
- Healthy gums
- No loose teeth
Once you have a healthy baseline established, you will be better equipped to handle the changes that pregnancy brings to your mouth. And remember, it’s never too late to get started with improving your oral health. Even if you’re already pregnant, you can start making changes to help combat pregnancy’s impact on your dental health.
Pregnancy’s Impact on Your Dental Health
The reason we stress the importance of achieving a healthy mouth baseline is that pregnancy’s impact on your dental health can be dramatic. Pregnancy cravings, for example, can increase your risk for cavities, especially if they include sugary foods or drinks. Additionally, nausea can reduce your intake of valuable nutrients that help strengthen teeth and gums. For expectant mothers with conditions such as hyperemesis gravidarum (extreme nausea and vomiting), the acids from vomiting can also damage your teeth. The increase in progesterone and testosterone also raise your chances of experiencing dental issues such as:
- Inflammation of the gums
- Bleeding gums
- Loose teeth
- Benign oral tumors
- Periodontal disease
Being pregnant does not automatically guarantee you will experience some or all of these issues. However, it does increase your risk of experiencing them. Making even one visit to the dentist during pregnancy can help you detect problems and treat them before your oral health negatively affects your pregnancy.
How Your Oral Health Affects Your Pregnancy
Gum disease is one of the greatest dental concerns during pregnancy. The March of Dimes notes that 60-75% of pregnant women have gingivitis (inflammation and gum swelling) which puts them at elevated risk of periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is a serious infection that can cause issues with your jaw, gums, and teeth. Studies have linked periodontal disease and poor oral health to other conditions and diseases of the body, such as heart disease and bacterial pneumonia. As far as the health of your baby, periodontal disease is linked to premature birth, defined as a birth that occurs before the ideal 37-40-week window. Premature infants can experience many complications with their growth and development. By caring for your teeth before and during pregnancy, you can help lower one set of risk factors associated with prematurity.
Is It Safe to Visit the Dentist While Pregnant?
Many expectant mothers wonder if it is safe to visit the dentist while pregnant. This is a very understandable concern, especially considering all of the myths surrounding pregnancy and dental care. The good news is that it is completely safe to visit the dentist while pregnant! In fact, as noted above, it’s actually important that you include dental care in your pregnancy plan to promote healthy outcomes for you and your baby. While pregnant, it is safe to:
- Receive routine cleanings and exams
- Get dental x-rays (with additional precautions)
- Receive treatment for cavities
- Receive local anesthesia
Of course, it is especially important to discuss treatments that involve medication or local anesthesia with your physician to ensure they are safe for your individual pregnancy. Some doctors may advise patients to wait until the second trimester to schedule certain treatments. At Sierra Smiles, we work with our pregnant patients to create a care plan that fits their unique needs. We can schedule cleanings to accommodate nausea or work to delay certain procedures until after pregnancy. We can also adapt the types of medications prescribed in alignment with the recommendations of your doctor. Our goal is to help you feel safe while getting the dental care you need.
At Sierra Smiles, we are delighted to do our part to provide our pregnant patients with the dental care they need during pregnancy. If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you, give us a call!