Pregnancy and Oral Health
With the many changes that occur to a person’s body while pregnant, a dental visit during pregnancy is vital. A dental visit may help reassure pregnant people about the various changes that can occur in the oral cavity and reinforce good habits to keep gums and teeth healthy.
The American Dental Association (ADA) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists agree that necessary dental treatment is safe during any stage of the pregnancy.
Prenatal visits are an ideal time to assess oral health and provide necessary referrals to the dentist. During the prenatal evaluation, a visual screening inside the mouth, as well as asking your patients some important questions, will help to gather information needed to encourage pregnant people to see the dentist. Consider asking the following:
- Do you have swollen or bleeding gums, tooth pain, problems chewing food, or other problems in your mouth?
- Have you been vomiting? If so, how often?
- Do you have any concerns about seeing the dentist while you are pregnant?
- When was your last dental visit?
Providers should encourage all pregnant people to schedule a dental exam if it has been more than six months since their last exam or if they are experiencing any oral health problems.
According to the ADA’s current guidelines, it is riskier for a pregnant person to postpone dental treatment than to have treatment completed. The best way for a dentist to make an accurate, timely diagnosis is to take dental X-rays.
The amount of radiation exposure for dental X-rays is generally very small compared to other medical imaging. Four bitewing images is approximately .004 mSv compared to the .02 mSv received from a single chest X-ray.
Reassure patients that dental visits, including diagnosis, dental X-rays, local anesthesia, and treatment of oral conditions, are safe during pregnancy. Restorative fillings, extractions, and root canal treatments stop disease process and are not considered elective treatment. Delaying treatment may result in more complicated problems.
Encouraging pregnant people to have good oral hygiene and treat decay can decrease bacterial loads in their mouth. Decreasing the cavity causing bacteria in mother’s mouths can decrease bacteria that is passed onto their child, which could delay the onset of caries for their child.
Requests for Medical Clearances
While it is has been long established that dental treatment is safe during all stages of pregnancy, many dental providers will continue to seek a medical clearance to ensure that all members of a woman’s healthcare team are informed of any planned treatment and allow the obstetrician to give input of any potential risks. Providing a medical clearance in advance of a dental appointment will help to facilitate the patient in getting dental treatment.