What You Need to Know About Dental Work During Pregnancy

October 12, 2017

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As a pregnant mother, striking a balance between maintaining individual health while also minimizing risk to your baby can be a challenge. It is important to practice certain medical precautions during pregnancy, but how does this apply to dental care? After all, at the end of those nine months you want to make sure your oral health is still in good condition.

Preventative dental cleanings and exams are generally safe and recommended during pregnancy, but there are a few key guidelines to follow to reduce risk exposure to you and your baby. Here are the top items to expect out of your dental care when you’re expecting.

Is routine dental work safe for pregnant mothers?

General dental checkups are important for everybody, and remain crucial for pregnant mothers as a preventative measure to maintain dental health. The important factor to consider while pregnant is timing.

It is recommended that you get dental work done during the second trimester of pregnancy. The first trimester is the most vulnerable time for development so that could be a time to avoid dental procedures, but the later you wait in your pregnancy the more difficult it will be to lie on your back. This makes the second trimester the ideal midpoint for dental care.

Part of routine checkups usually include x-rays, which, due to the exposure to radiation, can be a cause for concern. According to the American College of Radiology, no single x-ray has enough radiation to harm a developing fetus, and routine x-rays are considered safe during pregnancy. Still, dentists will usually recommend pregnant mothers hold off on any x-ray work that is not crucial until after birth just to be on the safe side.

In general, try to postpone major dental work like root canals and tooth extraction until after the pregnancy. It is safe to have an emergency procedure if necessary, but elective treatment like teeth whitening and other cosmetic care should be delayed to minimize risk exposure to the baby — despite how minor the risks might be.

How to take medications while pregnant

The risk of taking medications related to dental care is no different than for other medical procedures. Pregnant women should follow the same category guidelines that govern all other medications. According to the American Pregnancy Association the categories are as follows:

  • Category A: Controlled studies show no risk or find no evidence of harm.
  • Category B: Animal studies show no risks, but there are no controlled studies on pregnant women.
  • Category C: Animal studies have shown risk to the fetus, there are no controlled studies in women, or studies in women and animals are not available.
  • Category D: There is positive evidence of potential fetal risk, but the benefits from use in pregnant women may be acceptable despite the risk (i.e. life threatening condition to mother).

"According to the American College of Radiology, no single x-ray has enough radiation to harm a developing fetus, and routine x-rays are considered safe during pregnancy."

Lidocaine is the most common medication associated with dental work, and is considered a Category B medication — meaning it is considered safe for pregnant mothers to use. This local anesthetic is used to block nerve reception and eliminate pain in certain areas of the mouth for any number of procedures. Keep in mind, it is important to reduce stress as much as possible for the safety of your baby and yourself, so the use of anesthesia to ease the process can be of benefit in painful or anxiety-inducing procedures.

There are also a number of antibiotics that are considered to be safe to use as needed after a procedure. Penicillin, amoxicillin and clindamycin are all Category B medications. Antibiotics are often prescribed after major dental procedures, and can be an important precaution for ensuring recovery.

Ultimately, the topic of dental work during pregnancy doesn’t mean you need to avoid the dentist entirely. However, when possible, it’s advised to postpone x-rays and any major procedures until after pregnancy when possible.

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