One of the most common concerns I encounter in my office is how to handle dental care during pregnancy.
With all the well-known precautions about alcohol, caffeine, seafood, and more, it’s understandable that many pregnant women are apprehensive about receiving dental treatment. Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation about the safety of routine dental treatment for pregnant women.
Who better to consult on this matter than the experts on pregnancy, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists? Time and time again, OB/GyN doctors have confirmed, not only the safety of dental treatment during pregnancy, but the heightened importance of oral health care during pregnancy.
The above article from the ACOG recommends that pregnant women proceed with treatment recommended by their dentist, including fillings, root canals and extractions, as well as focusing on prevention by keeping up with cleanings, exams and X-rays. (Yes, X-rays too!) The risks of dental x-rays are so misunderstood that I will have to dedicate a future blog post to this topic alone.
Suffice to say, while we continue to follow the practice of ALARA (as low as reasonably achievable) for the use of dental x-rays, the risk of missing an infection or decay that could lead to an emergency is far higher than that of taking routine x-rays. This fact is especially true when we consider modern safety measures that have decreased x-ray radiation significantly. These include lead apron coverage for the abdomen and thyroid, as well as technological advances such as collimation, digital sensors, and handheld x-ray devices that further lower the amount of radiation.
Another misconception is that local anesthetic can be harmful during pregnancy. This has led some women as far as refusing anesthetic in cases of emergency dental treatment! In reality, the most commonly used local anesthetic, Lidocaine, is considered safe to use for dental treatment by the ACOG.
Finally, I want to emphasize the importance of oral hygiene during pregnancy. While concerns about dental x-rays and local anesthetic during pregnancy are almost entirely unfounded, we can easily link pregnancy with a higher risk of oral diseases, including gingivitis, or swelling of the gums, erosion of the teeth, and the development of cavities, due to a number of factors such as hormonal changes, cravings, dry mouth, and vomiting. This makes it especially important to seek routine preventive dental care during pregnancy!
For additional reading, please see the ADA’s page on pregnancy at https://www.ada.org/en/member-center/oral-health-topics/pregnancy
I hope this post has been beneficial, and as always, please feel free to email me with any specific questions. Thank you for reading!
-Ayham Nahhas, DDS