It’s quite a common myth that going to the dentist for any reason if you’re pregnant can be harmful to you. While some dental procedures could indeed be dangerous to a pregnant woman, there are also so many reasons why someone who is pregnant should go the dentist (1).
Continuing to see your dentist to improve dental hygiene and promoting oral health is especially important for pregnant women, as they are more susceptible to certain types of dental diseases.
A pregnant woman who suffers from dental problems and pain and chooses not to address this issues unfortunately may potentially risk damage to herself and her unborn child (2).
Keeping this in mind, many women may have a lot of questions regarding getting dental care whilst pregnant, and this is completely understandable as mothers want to make sure that they’re doing everything correctly to secure their baby’s health.
Below I highlight why getting dental treatment for a pregnant woman is important, and some dental procedures and treatments that may need to be avoided by pregnant women.
Dental Care during Pregnancy
In general, it’s still important for a pregnant woman to ensure adequate oral hygiene like anybody else. A small dental problem that’s ignored may develop into something much more complex and require even more medicine and medical treatment.
Pregnancy Gingivitis – Gum disease during pregnancy
Pregnancy gingivitis (3) is a dental condition where a pregnant woman may get swollen and infected gums, due to inadequate oral care and hormonal changes as a result of the pregnancy.
It’s understood that hormonal changes in the body of a pregnant woman may cause her immune system to exhibit exaggerated responses towards gum inflammation (4)(5), and so swollen gums that bleed frequently may be expected with pregnancy.
To avoid this, women who are trying to get pregnant should go to the dentist to get a dental cleaning and make sure that their gums aren’t infected, otherwise they could get much worse during pregnancy (6).
Treatment of bleeding gums during pregnancy:
Women who are pregnant and are complaining of of bleeding gums can try the following at home to reduce their gum inflammation:
- Brush and floss daily
- Add more Vitamin C and Vitamin A to their diet
- Gargle with salt water one a day
If the gum inflammation still persists, then it’s important to go the dentist for a dental exam and possible dental cleaning. It’s recommended to avoid going to the dentist during the first trimester (first 3 months of pregnancy), therefore, consider getting your teeth cleaned during the second trimester.
Stress and dizziness at the dentist
It’s completely normal for a pregnant woman to feel dizzy or tired at the dentist. In addition to the expected nausea accompanied with pregnancy, the posture of the dental seat and anxiety from the dental procedure may lead to dizziness and and even fainting.
Therefore, it’s advised for pregnant women who are going to the dentist, to not lie down completely on their back, rather, to have their backs slightly inclined instead.
Before going to the dentist, make sure that you’re completely relaxed and aren’t stressed, understanding that the more calm you are the smoother the procedure will be. Make sure that you only go to a dentist that you feel comfortable with.
X-rays and Pregnancy
Unlike conventional full body x-ray machines, modern dental x-rays are now used almost routinely in the dental clinic. Their design has become so advanced that their side effect for a radiation exposure is almost insignificant.
Despite this fact, x-ray exposure to a pregnant woman still poses a very small risk, therefore the American Pregnancy Association issued a statement declaring that “pregnant women should take an x-ray only when the benefits outweigh the risks” (7). Only your trusted dentist will be able to tell you this.
In other words: although x-rays might harm a developing baby, a worsening dental condition that won’t be treated because a pregnant patient refuses to take an x-ray, has a high chance of developing into something much more serious that’ll be even more harmful to the baby.
Therefore if you’re pregnant and have dental pain, it is crucial to consult your dentist fully. If you are near the third trimester or around a couple of months from giving birth, then it may be wiser to wait before taking an x-ray.
On the other hand, if a pregnant lady is suffering from intense dental pain and requires a root canal due to an acute infection that could spread across her face, then most probably the dentist will take an x-ray and provide adequate dental treatment to avoid progression of the infection.
Dental anesthetic for pregnancy women
A pregnant woman requiring dental care will also most probably require anaesthetic. The most common local anaesthetic used in dentistry today is Lidocaine. Fortunately, Lidocaine is labelled as a Category B drug by the FDA, which means that it can be safely administered to pregnant women (8)
Despite this fact, during the first trimester of pregnancy (the first 3 months), the risk of a baby developing developmental malformations as a side effect of drugs is at a greatest, therefore it’s advised that local anesthetic be given to all pregnant women except those who are in their first trimester.
Other Local anesthetics (such as Mepivicaine and Bupivacaine) can also be used, however they need to be used in caution with great attention given to the doses.
Medicines and antibiotics in pregnancy
Some pregnant women may need to take medicines and antibiotics as part of their dental treatment, however; some of these drugs may be harmful to the baby. It’s important to consult your physician before you take any sort of medicine.
Paracetamol is a pain reliever and can be taken safely by pregnant ladies to reduce pain and mild fever.
Antibiotics such as Ampicillin, Cephalosporins, and Erythromycin are usually administered safely by pregnant women, but make sure to ask your physician first.
Drugs such as Tetracycline are contraindicated in pregnancy and should not be taken by pregnant women.
As mentioned above, consult your dentist and physician very carefully about which antibiotics or medicines are safe to take if you’re pregnant.
Dental treatment during pregnancy conclusion
Oral Hygiene during pregnancy is extremely important. Pregnancy causes several dental problems such as pregnancy gingivitis, and this needs careful dental care through brushing and flossing.
If you are experiencing pain or if your dentist has told you that you require dental care, then careful discussion between your dentist and physician needs to take place, to weigh the benefits vs the risks.
If ignoring your dental condition will lead to very severe consequences, then it is advised to undergo the dental treatment instead, but you should always consult your gynaecologist before anything.
It is important to note that this is just a rough guide and is not an alternative to a professional medical consultation or opinion. Visit or contact your local health professional to get the most accurate information specific to your case.
Other dental procedures such as cosmetic orthodontics (like Invisalign), or cosmetic treatments (like veneers or teeth whitening) that have no basis for urgent dental health, are best deferred until after birth.