What to Expect for Your Oral Health When You're Expecting

Posted on May 4, 2018 in General oral health

May is Pregnancy Awareness Month. At first glance, it may not seem like oral health has much to do with pregnancy, but it's actually a critical part of it. A pregnant woman's oral health can be correlated with the baby's overall health, so it's important to pay close attention to your dental care and any changes that may arise while you're pregnant.1 What kind of changes? We've got the answer to that and a few other common questions about oral health during pregnancy and after the baby arrives.

Can I get X-rays while pregnant?

Probably. According to the Mayo Clinic, it's highly unlikely that a diagnostic X-ray would harm a developing baby. The exception is abdominal X-rays (even then, the risk is low),2 but your dentist won't need those. Even so, be sure to tell your dentist and hygienist that you're expecting so they can take the necessary precautions. The safest time to get X-rays or other dental procedures is during the second trimester. 3

Is it safe to get dental treatments that require anesthesia?

Yes, a 2015 study published in the Journal of the American Dental Association determined4 that there was no risk to receiving local anesthesia during pregnancy. It's an important discovery because some pregnant women avoid dental procedures for nine months, even if they experience pain or the dental issue affects their overall health. Pregnant women should not avoid going to the dentist—getting dental issues treated is beneficial for your and your baby's health.

Should I do anything differently, oral health-wise, when I'm expecting?

It seems like everything about your health and body is different during pregnancy, and your mouth is no exception. An abundance of estrogen and progesterone1 are the culprits behind many of those changes, including sensitive gum tissue. Some women can be affected by pregnancy gingivitis, characterized by redness, swelling, tenderness and bleeding. Fight plaque build-up by brushing twice daily with fluoride toothpaste and flossing daily, paying special attention to the gum line.2

If you have other questions or concerns about dental care or treatment while you're expecting, be sure to talk with your dentist. It's also a great time to ask any questions you may have about your baby's oral health care.

Do my dental benefits change?

Some dental plans may provide enhanced benefits for pregnant women, like extra cleanings, which help prevent and treat conditions like pregnancy gingivitis. Review your policy to see if your plan offers enhanced benefits.

What can I do to take care of my baby's oral health after they are born?

Starting at about one month old, you can gently wipe your baby's gums with a damp wash cloth after feedings.  After the first baby tooth comes in, use a soft toothbrush and a smear of fluoride toothpaste (about the size of a grain of rice) to brush your child's teeth and gums in soft, gentle circles two times a day. Begin flossing when two baby teeth touch.

When should I take my baby to the dentist for the first time?

Tooth decay is preventable, but can develop any time after the teeth begin to appear at about 6 months of age.  For this reason, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends taking your child to the dentist for the first time within six months of getting the first tooth and no later than the first birthday.

Visiting the dentist at early age helps your child establish a good relationship with the dentist.  Starting good oral health habits early in life can help set your child up for a lifetime of healthy smiles.

Delta Dental of Illinois Foundation encourages parents and caregivers to bring their child to the dentist by age 1 through its Dentist By 1 program.  You can participate and take the pledge to schedule your child's first dental visit by their first birthday. In addition, the Dentist By 1 program provides free preventive dental care to child under age 5.  This year's free dental care events will be held July 28 in Peoria and September 8 in Mattoon.

Are there any other oral health resources that I can use during my pregnancy?

Delta Dental of Illinois Foundation provides resources for pregnant women and new parents. Learn more about our Dentist By 1 program.

1 http://oralhealth.deltadental.com/Search/22,DD36
2 http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/expert-answers/x-ray-during-pregnancy/faq-20058264
3 http://oralhealth.deltadental.com/Search/22,DD123
4 http://www.ada.org/en/press-room/news-releases/2015-archive/august/new-study-shows-dental-treatment-during-pregnancy-is-safe