How safe is dental work in pregnancy?

There are many pregnancy safety myths when it comes to dental health and hygiene, from losing a tooth for every baby you have to weakened teeth from calcium loss. Fortunately, none of these myths is true. Yet another myth is that it is unsafe to have dental work and X-rays during pregnancy. In actuality, the opposite is true. By practicing good dental hygiene and care before, during, and after pregnancy, every woman can ensure that her teeth remain healthy for a long time.

Preventive dental cleanings and annual exams during pregnancy are not only safe but recommended. The rise in hormone levels during pregnancy can cause the gums to swell, bleed, and trap food, causing increased irritation to the gums. Recent studies have shown an association between poor dental conditions and pregnancy complications such as preterm delivery and low birthweight babies.

Preventive dental work is essential to avoid oral infections such as gum disease, which has been linked to preterm birth. As a result, it is recommended that all pregnant women and women trying to conceive see their dentist regularly, at least every 6 months.

Periodontal gum disease is an infection of the gums and bone, caused by plaque, a sticky film of bacteria that adheres to teeth; pregnant women are especially susceptible to this gum disease. It is known that periodontal disease can adversely affect the pregnancy, though information is lacking as to how and why these negative effects occur.

Research suggests that the bacteria that cause inflammation in the gums can actually get into the bloodstream and target the fetus, potentially leading to premature labor and low birth weight babies. One study even shows an increased risk of preeclampsia in women with periodontal disease.

To decrease your risk and to prevent the development of periodontal disease, it is important that you see your dentist before and during pregnancy. For women who are planning to get pregnant, a thorough periodontal exam and appropriate treatment should begin prior to pregnancy. Meticulous oral hygiene and frequent professional cleanings may also be helpful. Dental work such as cavity fillings, crowns, and even root canal treatment should also be done before and during pregnancy to reduce the chance of infection.

Local anesthesia as well as dental X-rays with abdominal shielding are safe during pregnancy and will not affect the fetus. Antibiotics such as penicillin, amoxicillin, and clindamycin, which are labeled category B for safety in pregnancy, may be prescribed after your procedure. Elective tooth treatments, such as teeth whitening and other cosmetic procedures, however, should be postponed until after birth.

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