Complex biological events occur in the mouth during pregnancy as they do all over the body. Hormonal changes increase the potential for inflammation, make the mouth more susceptible to infection, and can sensitize the gag reflex. As a result, it may be difficult for some women to brush their teeth properly during the first trimester of pregnancy. An old adage used to be, “a tooth lost for each child.” In an unkept mouth, this may not be far from the truth because periodontal disease can progress very rapidly during pregnancy. More importantly than losing a tooth, current research has shown that periodontal disease may pose a threat to the unborn child because gum disease can cause premature delivery and low birth-weight infants. For these reasons, dental care before and during pregnancy is extremely important.
The stages of pregnancy are usually described as three trimesters, 3-month periods. During the first trimester, the baby’s critical organs and life-maintaining systems are formed. Usually, this period is considered the most critical period during which any elective dental care should be avoided and only non-invasive emergency dental care should be provided. The second trimester is usually considered to be the “safe” period for dental care because the baby is growing and the critical systems are already developed. Elective dental care should also be avoided in the third trimester because stress from dental therapy could potentially induce premature labor, and the anatomy of the expectant mother makes it difficult for her to sit in the dental chair.
Because of the importance of the mother’s oral health to the unborn child, treatment of periodontal disease and dental abscesses is critical regardless of the trimester. If serious dental problems develop during pregnancy which may require oral surgery, a dilemma is created. Sedation during pregnancy is not wise because of the potential effects on the fetus. Therefore, shorter appointments are often necessary with only local anesthesia. Anything that would require antibiotic and pain control medications could have potential ramifications for the fetus.
Regular dental care is an essential part of pregnancy planning. Once it has been determined that pregnancy exists, a careful discussion should occur between the treating dentist and the mother. The choice to complete dental treatment during pregnancy, to what extent, and when to do it must be made by each mother after careful consultation with her dentist. Most of the time, however, the mother’s routine dental hygiene schedule should be maintained. If possible, any essential dental care should be performed during the second trimester. Elective dental care such as whitening, makeover procedures, etc., should probably be planned for sometime after delivery.
We welcome the opportunity to provide you with comprehensive oral health care and invite you to schedule a visit to meet Dr. Huff and our team.