This dental myth originates from the numerous calls we get to our office where an expecting patient states “I’m pregnant and I heard I shouldn’t go to the dentist.”
This also happens to be the second dental myth that involves either pregnant or post-partum women. In Dental Mythbuster #6, I dispelled the notion that an in-utero or nursing baby “sucked” the calcium out of the mother’s teeth leading to cavities. In this post, I bust the myth that pregnant women either don’t need or should not receive dental care.
Pregnancy and Gums
During pregnancy, there are numerous hormonal changes that affect a woman, including changes to the gum tissue (called gingiva). Specifically, a woman’s hormones make her gum tissue extra sensitive to plaque and calculus around the teeth. As a result, inflammation around the gums develop. This inflammation is called gingivitis.
Pregnancy gingivitis affects between 50% to 75% of expecting mothers in the United States. Gingivitis left untreated during pregnancy can lead to gum and teeth problems after the pregnancy. There is also research to suggest that untreated gum problems can lead to preterm birth.
Most importantly, a regular dental cleaning without local anesthesia during pregnancy is totally safe. In my dental office in Orange, CT, I speak to the treating obstetrician if there is a concern. But after treating thousands of moms-to-be over the past several years, pregnant women can and should receive regular cleanings throughout the pregnancy. In fact, many dental insurance companies will pay for extra cleanings during pregnancy!
Pregnancy and Teeth
It is well established that expecting and post-partum mothers are at higher risk for cavities (dental decay). I outlined this in a previous Dental MythBuster. Untreated dental decay can lead to more serious problems including infections, dental abscesses, and significant pain – all conditions that can place both the mother and the unborn child at significant risk.
Just like with a cleaning, I always check with the patient’s obstetrician. Cosmetic or elective dental treatment is always postponed until after the pregnancy. But procedures that address serious teeth problems – certain fillings, treatment of abscesses, root canals – can and should be done. On many occasions I have had to treat a pregnant patient in severe pain or with a serious dental abscess – now that is a problem that can impact the pregnancy!
What to expect at the Dentist when you’re expecting
In this Dental MythBuster, I’ve shown that pregnant women should see the dentist. When I see a pregnant patient at her first cleaning since learning she is expecting, my hygienists and I always review what to expect with her teeth and gum tissue over the course of the pregnancy. If any treatment is needed, we frequently consult with her obstetrician.
So, be sure to continue your regular dental checkups when you’re expecting. Your gums and teeth will thank you for it!