Dental Care Guide for Pregnant Women & Babies

Dental Care Guide for Pregnant Women & Babies
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Dental Care Guide for Pregnant Women & BabiesClinical Content Reviewed by Dr. Jay Khorsandi, DDS
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Table of Contents

  1. Why Dental Health Changes During Pregnancy
  2. General Oral Health Tips
  3. Are X-Rays Safe?
  4. Root Canals and Other Major Procedures
  5. Oral Health Issues That Pregnancy May Cause
  6. Additional Resources
  7. Dental Care for Your Newborn
  8. References

Dental health can be a tricky balancing act for women who are pregnant. Not only are they more susceptible to a variety of oral health problems, but some of those issues (and their treatment) may put their developing baby at risk.

It is safe for pregnant women to undergo necessary dental X-rays and other dental procedures like root canals. In fact, it is often much more dangerous to delay these procedures if they are needed to treat an immediate oral health issue.

If you’re pregnant, it’s important to maintain your oral hygiene routine, eat tooth-friendly foods and take certain precautions to counteract the effects of your pregnancy. Once your baby is born, you should also take steps to set them up for good oral health for life.

Woman Smiling Using Water Flosser

Why Dental Health Changes During Pregnancy

Hormonal changes during pregnancy have a big impact on your oral health, especially your gums. They may become extra sensitive, bleed more easily than usual and develop benign growths that can look alarmingly like cancer. All of these changes are common, and they usually recede over time.

If you experience morning sickness during your pregnancy, you may also find yourself vomiting much more often than usual. This can create an acidic environment in your mouth, which is bad for your teeth. 

Nutrition also plays a role in dental health during pregnancy. If you don’t get enough calcium from your diet to support the growth of your baby, your body will take what they need from your blood, bones, and teeth. This can cause permanent damage to your teeth.

General Oral Health Tips 

Oral Health Issues Pregnancy May Cause

To maintain good oral health during pregnancy, you should:

  • Continue to brush twice a day for at least two minutes each time and floss daily. 
  • Eat a healthy diet. Make sure you and your baby get all of the nutrients you need while avoiding foods with added sugars. 
  • Sip water often to hydrate your mouth, wash away food particles, and deliver small doses of fluoride to your teeth. 
  • If you have morning sickness, rinse your mouth with water immediately, then wait 30 minutes. Once this time is up, brush your teeth to make sure you’ve gotten rid of all the acid in your mouth.  
  • Consider taking a calcium supplement to ensure you have enough calcium in your body for both you and your child.

Are X-Rays Safe?

Dental X-rays are safe when you are pregnant, but you should subject yourself to them as little as possible.

Although the radiation dosage from X-rays is low, it nonetheless is an exposure. While carrying your baby, you should limit any radiation your baby will be exposed to.

Your dentist will use a leaded apron to cover your torso during your X-ray to protect you and your baby. This will absorb most of the harmful radiation, but repeated exposures will add up over time.  

If you are worried about the impact of X-rays on your baby, talk to your dentist. He or she can tell you more about the risks involved and what might happen if you don’t get the X-ray. You can then make an informed decision about whether you want to proceed.

Root Canals and Other Major Procedures

According to the UT Southwestern Medical Center, pregnant patients can undergo medically necessary dental procedures at any point during their pregnancy without fear of being unsafe.

Some dentists may recommend that certain procedures be delayed until after the first trimester or after the baby has been delivered. However, this depends on the urgency of the problem that needs to be treated.
The second trimester is considered to be the safest time for a pregnant patient to get fillings, to have a root canal and to undergo other major dental procedures. If you are anxious about getting dental care while pregnant, it is a good idea to schedule a checkup between the third and sixth months of your pregnancy.

Oral Health Issues That Pregnancy May Cause

Pregnancy can cause a number of various oral health problems, including:

Tooth Decay
Pregnant women often experience cravings for sweet food items. This may lead them to consume a lot of sugar at many points throughout the day, eventually resulting in tooth decay.
Tooth Erosion
Morning sickness vomiting produces acid in your mouth. This acid can wear away at the enamel on your teeth and make them more vulnerable to breakage and decay.
Gum Disease
An estimated 60-75% of pregnant women have gingivitis, which can quickly develop into periodontitis. Periodontitis in pregnant women has been linked to poor birth outcomes like low birth weight and preterm birth.
Pyogenic Granuloma
Some pregnant women develop small round growths on their gums as a result of the hormonal changes they are experiencing. These growths can look a lot like oral cancer, but they are benign and can easily be removed by your dentist or oral surgeon.

Resources

Many organizations have developed various resources to help pregnant women maintain good oral health and care for their baby’s developing teeth.

Dentist Smiling in Office
  • This toolkit from the American Academy of Pediatrics includes a variety of posters, infographics, brochures, videos, and other media intended for display in dentists’ offices. You can use them to learn more about dental care during pregnancy and how to care for your baby’s teeth.  
  • This fact sheet from the Journal of Midwifery and Women’s Health outlines why you should pay special attention to your dental health during pregnancy and offers a few tips on how to do it.  
  • This brief article from the Journal of the American Dental Association00017-9/fulltext) offers more detail on the oral health problems that pregnant women commonly face.

Dental Care for Your Newborn 

Once your child is born, you will also need to care for their teeth. Here are some tips to help you do this. 

  • Wipe your child’s gums with a soft cloth twice a day, just like you would brush their teeth. This keeps your baby’s mouth clean and prevents cavities from forming while their teeth are breaking through their gums.
  • If you give your baby a bottle in their crib at night, do not offer them anything but water. Milk, juice, and other liquids contain sugars which may put any developing teeth at risk. 
  • Once your baby’s first tooth comes in, brush their teeth twice a day using a smear of toothpaste about the size of a grain of rice. 
  • Bring your baby to the dentist for their first checkup by their first birthday. This is a critical time for spotting developing problems like early tooth decay or impacted baby teeth.

References 

Pregnancy. (May 2021). American Dental Association.  

Dental Care in Pregnancy. (2014). Journal of Midwifery and Women’s Health.  

Pregnancy and Oral Health00017-9/fulltext). (March 2021). For the Patient: Journal of the American Dental Association 

Oral Health Campaign Toolkit. (October 2020). American Academy of Pediatrics. 

Pregnancy and Oral Health. (February 2019). Center for Disease Control (CDC).  

Give Your Baby the Best Possible Start. (June 2018). American Academy of Pediatrics.  

Oral health and pregnancy. (March 2021). Government of Canada.  

Is it safe to have an X-ray during pregnancy? (March 2020). Mayo Clinic.  

Can I go to the dentist when I’m pregnant? (July 2018). UT Southwestern Medical Centre.

Disclaimer: This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to serve as dental or other professional health advice and is not intended to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any condition or symptom. You should consult a dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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