Dental care while pregnant

May 14, 2010 3:35:34 PM PDT
A pregnant woman may want to avoid the dentist because she fears a dental x-ray or a shot of Novocain and other drugs that she thinks might hurt her baby. But avoiding the dentist during pregnancy can lead to the potential for birth complications. Here's what's safe to do.

Mieke Scripps' second pregnancy is now six months along. The pregnancy has changed more than just her tummy. It's changed her behavior.

"Brush three to four times a day now that I'm pregnant cause I'm eating more, and I'm flossing more," she said.

Good dental hygiene with regular flossing and twice daily brushing are part of a routine to prevent gum infections which can lead to pregnancy complications such as premature births and low birth weight.

More dental care is needed because of what pregnancy does to the mouth and gums.

"Estrogen and progesterone are increased which can make a woman's gums red puffy and they bleed easily," Alice Deutsh, D.M.D., M.P.H., said.

If not managed with dental visits, it may lead to gum infections and higher risk to mom and baby.

Dr. Deutsch has written a pamphlet to educate moms-to-be and dispel myths. Myths such as avoiding dental visits. Not true! Getting rid of cavities, for example, reduces infection risk.

Avoid x-rays? Not if they're needed. A lead gown protects you and the baby.

Novocain shots? They're safe. The drugs act only in the gums and stay there.

Morning sickness, nausea and vomiting are common in pregnancy, but it's not a good idea for a pregnant woman to brush away the acid taste in her mouth.

Acid can soften tooth enamel and brushing can injure the soft surface. Instead, rinse with just water or add a little baking soda. That will restore tooth surfaces to normal. Dr. Deutsch adds, be especially careful during these nine months.

"Ideally, we would recommend that a women comes in once every trimester," she said.

Most likely even better is to have any dental work done, if possible, before you become pregnant.

Dr. Deutsch's pamphlet called prenatal dental care is available for free at