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Four Reasons to Visit the Dentist When Pregnant

Jan 20, 2015

By Dean George

In this age of instant communication, retweets and live streaming, there’s a lot of rumors and misinformation about how safe it is to visit the dentist while pregnant. The two leading concerns are:

  • Radiation exposure from dental X-rays
  • Mistaken impressions that periodontal (gum) treatment can lead to preterm birth and preeclampsia.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has concluded that dental services like diagnostic X-rays and periodontal treatment for problems like pregnancy gingivitis are safe and actually beneficial for the improvement of maternal oral health.


As previously reported in Dental Wire, pregnancy gingivitis is caused by hormonal changes that result in redder, swollen or bleeding gums. The condition can start in the 16th week of pregnancy and usually peaks around the 8th month before tapering off after birth.

Studies have shown that gum disease left untreated while pregnant makes it more likely to have preterm or low birth weight babies.

But are dental X-rays safe? Consider that the acceptable cumulative dose of ionizing radiation during a pregnancy is 5 rad, it would take 50,000 dental X-rays at 0.0001 rad each to exceed the accepted standard of safety.  Also, consider that no single diagnostic dental or medical study available exceeds 5 rad.

What about concerns that periodontal (gum) treatment can lead to problems birthing a baby? The ACOG says there is no evidence that dental treatment negatively influences birth outcomes, and that prenatal periodontal treatment actually improves maternal oral health.

Below are four reasons the ACOG says maintaining oral health and needed dental visits are important while pregnant:

  • Pregnancy is a good time to counsel patients on oral health recommendations like brushing twice daily with a fluoridated toothpaste, flossing, limiting sugary foods and drinks and visiting the dentist twice a year
  • For women that experience vomiting or acid reflux associated with pregnancy, dentists can best advise how to minimize damage to their teeth by using Xylitol or fluorides
  • Educating expectant mothers about cavity prevention and treatment is vital because S. mutans that cause early cavities in children are acquired directly from the mother. In other words, counseling pregnant women may delay or prevent the onset of cavities for both baby and mother
  • Oral health is a significant factor in good overall health in general

Because dozens of studies have shown how oral health and general health are inextricably linked, it’s important that dentists and obstetricians work in tandem when counseling pregnant women to ensure that their oral health not suffer during pregnancy.

A 2013 ACOG study entitled, “Oral Health Care During Pregnancy and Through the Lifespan” revealed that dentists were cautious about proposing dental procedures and medications a pregnant patient was taking, but obstetricians were less concerned about both of those but less likely to recommend any needed dental care.

The report concluded that it was important that all professionals involved in treating pregnant patients educate themselves and communicate throughout the process to ensure all of a patient’s needs are being met.


Sources:
Dentistry IQ, WebMD
Photo source: deltadentalwablog.com


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