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Dental guidelines for pregnant patients
In years past, pregnant women were warned against going to the dentist out of fear for the effects on the unborn child. Today, however, dentists and obstetricians know that proper dental prevention and care is one of the most important aspects of a healthy pregnancy. With notification of the pregnancy and any current medications at each appointment, dentists and their staffs can take proper precautions for the safety of both mother and child.
The Importance of Dental Care During Pregnancy
According to the American Dental Association, too many pregnant women are choosing to ignore or self-medicate dental pain rather than seeing a physician. This delay in seeing a medical professional can lead to even more significant and painful issues.
Because of changing hormones in a pregnant woman’s body, gum inflammation, or gingivitis, affects two-thirds of pregnant patients. The swelling can lead to excessive bleeding from the gums, as well as the possibility of trapping food in the enlarged gums. When this inflammation is left unchecked, it can develop into periodontal disease, a complaint that can lead to widespread tooth decay and loss. Not only does this form of gum disease affect the mother for the rest of her life, but gum disease has also been linked to preterm birth.
The Best Time for Elective Pregnancy Dental Care
The optimal time for any elective dental treatment is in the second trimester, preferably between weeks 14 and 20 of the pregnancy. At this point, the woman is typically over most of the morning sickness that had plagued her during the first trimester, and the discomfort and potential for preterm birth of the third trimester have not yet arrived. Women at this stage are typically able to recline comfortably in the dental chair without pain from the size and weight of the baby. In addition, research has shown that more extensive dental work during this period of pregnancy does not cause increased risk of problems at birth.
Cosmetic treatments, such as teeth whitening, are not necessary to maintain good oral health and should therefore wait until after the birth of the baby. This type of elective procedure could expose both the woman and the developing baby to excessive medications and potential for infections that are not worth the risks.
Regular Dental Exams During Pregnancy
The best way for pregnant women to avoid dental problems is to schedule their regular check-ups and cleanings. Under current guidelines, women can receive dental care during their pregnancies, especially if there is a problem. However, the best line of defense against any future issues is to maintain a schedule of regular cleanings and wellness checks. These noninvasive procedures can occur at any time during pregnancy, and a skilled hygienist will pick up on potential causes of concern before they become dangerous issues.
Many dentists will postpone the annual oral x-rays for the safety of the baby at a routine visit. However, there are times when the dentist may want to have the x-ray images. The American College of Radiology maintains that a single x-ray done for diagnostic purposes does not provide enough radiation to cause serious issues with a developing baby. Dental offices will typically provide appropriate shielding through the use of a lead apron over the abdomen during the x-ray as well.
Necessary Dental Interventions
Patients that are already experiencing tooth pain or oral swelling will likely be referred for more invasive and immediate dental treatment, even during a pregnancy. These treatments could take a number of different forms, but proper precautions are used for dealing with a pregnant patient and her developing child.
Dental filling, tooth extraction and wisdom tooth removal can become necessary dental interventions if the woman has an infection, abscess or facial swelling during pregnancy. If these issues are left untreated, the woman and her baby will both become stressed, and the infection could trigger other pregnancy concerns. If possible, these procedures should be carried out during the second trimester; however, if the infection is already severe, it is better to extract or fill the tooth as soon as possible.
Anesthesia and Medication Use
Pregnant patients are given the smallest amount of anesthesia as possible, but these women should not experience excessive pain. The affected area of the mouth should be properly numbed to keep the patient comfortable. When the patient is stressed by oral pain, her baby is also stressed. In this case, the benefit of additional anesthesia outweighs the small risk of this method.
Although there are conflicting studies regarding the safety of some medications, there are times when administering these medications becomes necessary. Most patients can take acetaminophen throughout their pregnancies for pain, and ibuprofen is considered safe until 32 weeks. Severe pain can be treated with doctor-prescribed narcotics, such as codeine, for short periods until further medical intervention can occur.
Lidocaine, the most commonly used medication during dental procedures, has been found to cross the placenta and affect the baby, making it a drug that is avoided as much as possible. Likewise, tetracycline use during pregnancy can lead to irreversible pigmentation of the teeth of the baby and should not be used.
Many dentists will prescribe antibiotics such as amoxicillin, cephalosporins and penicillin to help prevent and treat infections of the mouth and gums. These antibiotics are commonly classified as safe to use during pregnancy.
Some dentists subscribe to green dentistry practices to help protect the woman and her child more fully from potential reactions to the dental work. With a focus on using bio-compatible materials and incorporating aromatherapy and natural products into patient care, this dentistry is therapeutic as well as medical. Many pregnant patients find this combination more holistic and relaxing than traditional dentistry, especially at a time when their bodies and minds are already stressed by the many changes of pregnancy.
If you are pregnant and searching for a dental practice with your specialty care in mind, look no further than Bruce Vafa DDS at Smile Angels in Beverly Hills. With a focus on your overall body wellness and not just oral health, Dr. Vafa takes care of both mother and child through holistic dentistry practices. Your body and your teeth are important, and there is no better way to provide a bright smile for your future baby than through quality care with our Beverly Hills dental team.