May is Pregnancy Awareness Month, a time for pregnant women to focus on their overall health, for their own sake and the sake of their children.
We are seeing an improvement in the United States in terms of pregnant women’s attention to their oral health. According to Delta Dental, more expectant women have visited the dentist during their pregnancies than in the past, an increase of 7%, this past year.
Some frequently asked questions about dental care during pregnancy:
Q: When should pregnant women visit the dentist?
A: Whenever there is an issue, certainly. Regularly scheduled cleanings (every six months) should still occur during pregnancy as there is no reason to put those appointments off. More complicated procedures need to be discussed. Any pain should be weighed against the small but present risk to the baby. For the most part, procedures that require local anesthesia are permitted and even encouraged if they will improve the well being of the mother. Extra precautions to shield the abdomen will need to be taken if x-rays are absolutely necessary.
Most dentists and women find the 2nd trimester to be the ideal time for appointments and procedures. Women who are nauseated during the 1st trimester often cannot tolerate any work done on their mouths. The third trimester can also make lying back for long periods uncomfortable.
Q: Does your mouth change when you are pregnant?
A: Yes, it can. There is such a thing as “pregnancy gingivitis”, a condition of more sensitive inflamed gums during pregnancy. This appears to be related to an increase in hormone levels. Your gums may need extra care during these 40 weeks and you may require a more intense dental cleaning during pregnancy.
In addition, there is a rarer condition that causes little tumors to appear on the gum between the teeth, related to a buildup of plaque. These typically go away as soon as the baby is born.
Q: What should pregnant women do to take care of their teeth?
A: Continue to be vigilant about brushing and flossing. Flossing becomes paramount in order to deal with the possibilities of plaque buildup and any irritation to the gumline. Make sure you see the dentist for a cleaning at least once during your pregnancy, changing the time of your appointment to the 2nd trimester if possible.
Pregnant women should contact their dental insurance provider if they are going to see their dentist earlier than planned in order to avoid the third trimester. Many plans only allow two visits per calendar year and the visits must have a certain interval between them. Calling the plan to explain that you are pregnant and you must be seen prior to the third trimester may save you save money by getting pre-approval.