Oral Health During Pregnancy

Pregnant women are at a higher risk for developing gum disease and should visit their dentist for regular cleanings to get checked and to maintain good oral health.

Is it necessary to tell your dentist if you are pregnant before you go in for a regular cleaning?

Dr. John Vitale: It’s absolutely necessary that you tell your dentist that you’re pregnant for a number of reasons. When a woman is pregnant, a lot of times you have a physician who is involved in treatment besides the dentist, there should be communication between the medical physician and the dental physician regarding women who could be in a high-risk situation with their pregnancies. It is absolutely necessary under all circumstances.

Is it safe to get regular dental cleanings and annual dental exams during pregnancy?

Dr. John Vitale: Not only is it safe, but it is absolutely necessary, at least, we recommend to my office that a patient, a woman, who is pregnant get three cleanings during the pregnancy and it is totally very safe.

Are women more at risk for gum disease or other issues during pregnancy?

Dr. John Vitale: They are absolutely at more risk and that’s why we recommend getting three cleanings. A very substantial problem with pregnant women is pregnancy gingivitis because women’s blood volume increases tremendously during pregnancies. The chances of getting periodontal disease and gum disease obviously increase because you have more blood flowing through your gingival tissue. And so, it is absolutely necessary that your tissue is totally clean during your pregnancy.

Can oral infections such as gum disease actually contribute to preterm birth?

Dr. John Vitale: There are a number of studies both nationally and internationally, which tell us that severe periodontitis and progressive gum disease have been linked to preterm births. And so, this is something that one really wants to avoid.

If a pregnant woman needs to have a cavity filled or get crowns fixed, should she wait until after the baby is born to get it taken care of? Or get it taken care of right away to reduce the chance of oral infection?

Dr. John Vitale: Depending on the individual, if the patient has a low caries index and a very clean mouth and takes care of her teeth and is pregnant, palliative treatment is acceptable. If a patient has poor hygiene and a high caries index, sometimes with the consent of the medical physician, it is necessary to attend to those problems immediately because those problems are problems that would tend to become worse over time.

How is a dental emergency handled differently for a pregnant woman?

Dr. John Vitale: Well, again an emergency is an emergency, so if measures have to be taken to alleviate pain or get rid of an infection, absolutely a dentist has to do that. Again, if the emergency can be handled in a palliative manner and if the patient has a low caries index and takes care of her mouth, then another form of treatment could be possible.

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