When a woman is pregnant she is not immune to gum disease and tooth decay. These problems may even be accentuated due to hormonal changes going on in the body at this time. They can make the gums sensitive, which can result in inflammation and bleeding, there can also be issues due to the accumulation of plaque around the teeth. It should be of note though that pregnancy does not automatically cause damage to your teeth, however due to certain demands the body expects as a result of pregnancy, as well as dental choices, particular dental issues could creep up in some women. However, all these can be managed with good hygiene and professional assistance from medical professionals and dentists.
Pregnancy related oral health conditions such as pregnancy gingivitis, normal periodontal disease and pregnancy tumors can all be avoided through proper oral hygiene practices and consultations. Pregnancy gingivitis is caused by bacteria being trapped in between the teeth that can result in swollen and receding gums, bad breath, as well as the accumulation of pus along the gums. Periodontal disease comes from untreated gingivitis and can result in the erosion of gums and bone structure.
Oral procedures and choices have for long caused issues of distress among people everywhere and certainly for pregnant women due to the uncertainty over what is safe to undertake at this time. Some particular procedures could lead to congenital abnormalities mostly due to the chemicals and medications administered. Here are 15 dangerous oral procedures to avoid during pregnancy.
15 Eating Habits
Bad eating habits such as overeating and eating the wrong foods are extremely dangerous choices during pregnancy because at this time, a fragile undeveloped human is relying on on the mom. Surely cravings are a part of pregnancy but satisfying such cravings should never equate in doing such in an unhealthy manner. No one wishes for an obese baby neither does any one wish for an underweight or malfunctioned one.
Another reason why a woman should be mindful of what is taken is due to the teeth and gums. At this point they are vulnerable to any harsh thing taken in; they can swell up or inflame and could bleed so eating food that would not cause irritation or eating sugary food too much should be avoided. It is a popular saying that a woman becomes a mother the moment she discovers the pregnancy; the life of the child is the utmost priority, as well as the health of the woman. This time is very influential too, if a child would be obese later in life.
14 Wisdom Tooth Removal
Though it is best to wait till delivery, if this is not possible, the dentist should be aware of the pregnancy and how far along it is so that local anesthetic would be used instead of any sedative or general anesthesia. If removal is not really necessary, then the dentist can perform oral irrigation instead and if that fails, painkillers and antibiotics can be administered.
The reason why it has been repeated over and over that the dentist should be aware of the pregnancy is because some medications are risky and unsafe and could result in harm to the baby if administered, an example is tetracycline, which is widely used. Another reason to avoid wisdom tooth removal during pregnancy is the use of anesthesia. Its use is largely frowned at but due to the stress that pain can cause to the body of the mother as well as the baby, a little local anesthesia is recommended to just numb the area.
13 First Trimester Procedures
The first trimester is the time when most organs of the fetus are formed. Regular procedures like cavity fillings should be postponed until after this time. It is best to take care of dental procedures that require surgery or something other than routine checks to be undertaken during the second trimester if it is ever needed at any point in the pregnancy. This is because during the first trimester, the baby's organs are very sensitive to radiation and chemicals.
It is recommended to undergo preventive dental care before the pregnancy. Postpone all non-emergency work till the second trimester or preferably after the delivery. However, if by all means it is an emergency, the dentist should be aware of the pregnancy in order to prevent the administration of certain medications. For example, tooth extraction is generally avoided by dentists on pregnant women except if it is an emergency because the fetus is vulnerable to malformations when the mother experiences stress and strain during the procedure.
12 Smoking Cigarettes
When not pregnant, some women indulge in getting a smoke or hundred and though medical professionals have advised against it, people would always indulge. Pregnancy is another ball court, the baby is at risk of diseases and brain damage if the pregnant mother smokes during the pregnancy.
The very act of smoking cuts short the amount of oxygen in the blood. Lack of the required amount of oxygen can lead to miscarriage, lung infections, weak heart and stillbirth for the baby. For the mother, there is an increased risk of developing mouth, throat and bladder cancer. There is also the possibility of heart attacks, strokes and high blood pressure, which pregnant women have a high risk of getting. Quitting and avoiding it totally even till after the delivery would not only contribute to producing a healthy baby, but significantly reduce the threat of cancer and heart disease and contribute to a healthier mother.
Is mouthwash bad? No, then why is it on this list? Simple, mouthwash can be an excellent tool in good dental hygiene as it helps with killing the extra germs the toothbrush couldn’t get out, but some can be harmful. Many brands contain a high percentage of alcohol, which is unsafe for the baby no matter the quantity taken. While it is still disputed if the alcohol in mouthwashes can enter the bloodstream without swallowing, it is important to note that even if swallowing is not involved, a tiny amount will be absorbed through the soft tissues of the mouth so to be on the safe side, a pharmacist should be consulted first and read the label.
It is important because some of those mouthwashes have unknown risks for pregnant women. If one can, it is better to do a good job of brushing and flossing and maintain a disease free mouth in order for there to be no need to rinse anything. That way, there would be very little use for the mouthwash.
10 Caffeine Addicts
What would some people do without their cup of coffee every morning to start their day. Even worse, some people have worse issues when it comes to what goes into their mouth making it addictive. Without pregnancy, too much intake of caffeine can cause the nervous system to go haywire. Too much caffeine during pregnancy would definitely cause harm to the body.
Too much intake of caffeine increases the chances of the occurrence of miscarriage as well as low birth weight. It has been advised that pregnant women should not go above 200 mg if they really need to drink caffeinated beverage. If possible, every trace of caffeine should be wiped out, that includes some painkillers and some chocolates. There is still no clear answer on how much caffeine is really safe even with the 200 mg limit, it is better to stay away from it.
9 Lack of Proper Medical Dental Care
Oral surgeries should be limited but routine checkups are of utmost importance, both for the health of the mother and child. As earlier mentioned, the hormones are going haywire, kicking left and right and these hormones coursing through the body can affect the gums. During pregnancy, the woman’s gums are more likely to bleed and get infected as well as inflamed. The likelihood of experiencing a buildup of plaque on the teeth is increased and having an infection in the mouth at this time is dangerous.
Having serious gum disease may not affect the baby’s health but the mother's health is at risk and it takes a healthy mother to deliver a healthy child. This is the reason why some researchers believe that there is a deep connection between gum disease and low birth weight and other complications and as earlier mentioned, the dentist should be made aware of how far along the pregnancy is as well as other medications currently being taken by the mom.
8 Teeth Whitening
When pregnant, the general feeling of aches all round could push one into trying to feel better about themselves with dazzling white teeth. While there is no proof that getting that dazzling white smile would cause harm to the baby, it should be classified as a ‘better safe than sorry' situation. It is OK to use a toothpaste with whitening features but the chemicals in other teeth whiteners could affect the baby. Even the manufactures of these products caution against the use of them during pregnancy.
Both professional whitening and over the counter products should be avoided. The chemicals are corrosive to cells and though the extent of harm it could cause to a baby is not yet known, it is better not to use one’s baby to test that. After delivery and when breastfeeding has been stopped, these professional/otherwise whitening processes can freely be done.
7 Dental Bling
Some women feel that having ornamentation on their teeth is extremely attractive. There are grills and there are also permanent gold teeth, all of which have no medical use and are only used for the ‘bling-bling- factor, so basically it is all for the sake of fashion. Grills have decorative covers either made of gold, silver or jewels that are placed over the teeth. They are generally removable. Then there is the permanent gold tooth, it can be applied either when one’s teeth are altered with gold crowns to resemble a grill permanently through the use of such harmful substances like glue used. There is also going to a dentist to get gold tooth attached.
The metals in these things could cause irritation, as well as allergic reaction. It can cause irritation around oral tissues and could lead to the wearing off of the enamel. Being pregnant could make the body react two times more than usual and the pregnant period is not a time to undergo cosmetic dental surgery; it can wait until after the delivery.
6 The Use of General Anesthetic
During pregnancy, it is imperative that every precaution is taken for the sake of the well-being of both mother and child. Surgery usually requires the use of anesthesia. If it is local anesthesia that is being administered, there is no cause for worry because though some of it may travel to the Placenta, it would not harm the baby. Sedation is another issue, it causes drowsiness. This is another reason why the doctor should be aware of the pregnancy – in order to sedate a patient sometimes, nitrous oxide is given, as well as the administration of some drugs that can be harmful for recovery.
If sedation is necessary, experts suggest that oxygen should be administered as well. General anesthesia on the other hand makes the person unconscious; the effect of which could vary but it can be extremely harmful and produce negative effects on the unborn child.
5 Third Trimester
Every major dental procedure should be handled before pregnancy if at all possible. When the woman knows she is actively trying to get pregnant, it should be on her list of things to do to assure her health and that of her baby to be. Except in cases of utmost importance, major dental procedures should be handled after delivery. Those that are performed before delivery should be handled between the 4th-6th month (second trimester). Every other time outside this, would have to be because there is a threat to the life of the mother.
The risk of having dental work during the third trimester have been said to be minimal by some while others claim it can lead to premature birth. The main issue is the position the woman would have to take while the procedure is going on due to the size of the baby because at this time lying down on the back for an extended record of time would be uncomfortable and it is said to increase the risk of premature labor. Lying straight on the back could also stop blood supply from returning to the heart which would lead to unconsciousness.
4 Gum Grafting
A gum graft on a normal day is necessary when there is a need to protect the teeth from gum recession; which is when the tissues around a tooth pull away exposing that tooth to its root. Though a gradual process, if not treated, it can lead to tooth loss. The tissue would be grafted from the roof of the mouth or surrounding gums, but if the dentist cannot make use of that, there is the gum bank.
Due to hormonal changes, the gums are usually very sensitive and are at a greater risk of bleeding than when there is no pregnancy involved. During grafting, there is usually a bit of bleeding but during pregnancy that bleeding can be more due to the vulnerability of the gums at this point as a result of the extra blood flow and larger blood vessels. Some pregnant women actually bleed from flossing. To cap that, pregnant women are not allowed a certain set of very effective pain killers like ibuprofen. The sensitive gums would not only bleed more but hurt more and with only very few types of painkillers allowed. Again, something like this should be done before the pregnancy, or it should wait until afterward.
3 Drinking Alcohol
Be it pharmaceutical or recreational, alcohol consumption should be avoided at all cost be it a sip or gulp or a whole bottle. There is no known safe amount to take during pregnancy. Unlike dental surgeries, there is no safe time to take alcohol while pregnant, neither is there a safe amount because even the most tiny amount can lead to miscarriage or sudden infant death. When a pregnant woman ingests alcohol, it travels through the placenta to the baby. If the mother gets a slight buzz, the baby may actually be quite drunk and cannot rid their body of the alcohol like the mother can.
Babies lack the ability to metabolize alcohol through organs like the liver, which is not mature enough to handle such substances. It would definitely interfere with the child and could lead to brain damage and other severe birth defects in the baby due to the presence of teratogen – a toxic substance to developing babies – that causes the death of the brain cells of a child.
2 Fear of Dental Procedures
Due to fear of the unknown, a lot of women refrain from going to the dentist during the period of their pregnancy. The fear and anxiousness that they would hurt their child is so intense that no matter how bad that tooth or gum may be, they rather try to live with it than get the needed help. The reality unknown to them is that they are putting their babies at risk due to the stress from the pain they are experiencing.
It is a popular saying that the fear of death kills faster than death itself. Preventive and routine dental checkups are highly recommended for pregnant women. This is essential in order for women to avoid oral infections that could cause greater harm such as premature birth of a child whose organs are not ready to function outside the womb. Most women would be anxious of what is safe to undergo during pregnancy. To clear out one’s fears, the woman should discuss with her dentist what is safe for her and her baby before anything is done.
1 The Way Forward
As earlier mentioned, hormones can cause painful effects on the gums that could cause them to become swollen, inflamed or bleeding. But it could be worse with issues like cavities, oral tumors, gingivitis, periodontitis, etc. Generally, brushing with a soft toothbrush and flossing at least once or twice a day is advisable at all times, not just while pregnant. It can be especially important during the first few months during the first trimester due to the gastric acids that could be expelled into the mouth as a result of vomiting.
Mouthwash containing alcohol should be avoided, brushing and rinsing with clean water is enough. Also another important part are dental checkups of dental hygiene habits as well as other oral problems which should be carried out. Excessive amounts of surgery snacks and drinks should be stopped, as well as excessive intakes of caffeinated products, smoking and alcohol intakes. In summary, while taking care of other physical health issues, dental health should not be overlooked due to fear or uncertainty about what is safe. When a woman is pregnant, it is important that she let her dentist know prior to any procedures. This way she can be assured of a safe dental visit for her and her unborn baby.