Pregnancy should generally be a joyful time for every mom-to-be. But when that time is punctuated by unpleasant episodes of un-invited dental problems, the ‘joy’ evaporates pretty soon and the poor lady is usually at a loss on what to do. Many myths quickly cloud her head regarding what she can or cannot do, in terms of dental treatment during pregnancy. Here are some of the common myths that surround pregnancy and dental work, and the actual truth to ease those fears;
Myth #1: You lose calcium from teeth during pregnancy thus the saying, ‘Lose a tooth when you gain a child.’
The Truth: The myth that you lose a tooth for every pregnancy you undergo is not really what it is made out to be. Many women find their tooth surface in a weaker state during pregnancy. One main reason for this could be frequent vomiting, where, the stomach acids which come up into the mouth, cause erosion of the tooth surface. Deficiency of dietary calcium in pregnancy can cause loss of calcium from BONE, but that usually does NOT happen in the case of teeth. Eat plenty of calcium rich foods and greens, and take the vitamins and other supplements that your doctor prescribes for you during pregnancy to avoid dietary deficiencies from occurring.
Myth #2: Gums always bleed during pregnancy.
The Truth: Pregnancy brings with it a surge in the levels of the hormone progesterone. This leads to an exaggerated response of the gums to plaque bacteria. As a result red, puffy or bleeding gums are a frequent problem during pregnancy. But other factors like lack of adequate oral hygiene because of nausea while brushing and food cravings which lead to frequent snacking, also can contribute to plaque accumulation. Frequent cleanings and timely dental check ups can identify and tackle this issue to a large extent.
Myth #3: Dental X-rays are to be absolutely avoided during pregnancy.
The Truth: According to the American college of Radiology, no single diagnostic X-ray has a radiation dose significant enough to cause adverse effects in a developing fetus. Also, making sure that the mother-to-be wears a lead apron and thyroid collar while taking the X-ray, further serves to reduce radiation exposure, thereby minimizing risk to the developing fetus.
Fetal organ development occurs during the first trimester; so it is best to avoid all potential risks during this period. Otherwise, dental X-rays may be safely taken during emergency situations if it is not possible to identify at first glance exactly which tooth is causing the problem.
Myth#4: A pregnancy tooth ache should be dealt with ONLY in the 2nd trimester.
The Truth: The 2nd trimester is the ideal time for dental treatment, but it is not the only time. This holds true especially in the case of severe pain or infection. Severe pain or swellings from infections are dental emergencies and need to be dealt with immediately, irrespective of whether you are pregnant or not. The first trimester as mentioned before is the time of organ development and the third trimester poses a difficulty in that the patient cannot lie down on her back for a long time. But that said, many preventive, emergency and routine dental procedures can be safely carried out during different phases of pregnancy with some treatment modifications and initial planning. Remember, the well being of the mother is important as it also ensures the well being of her child.
Myth#5: There is no need to see a dentist if there is no visible problem with my teeth.
The Truth: It is advisable to see your dentist twice a year, no matter what condition your teeth are in at the moment. Sometimes, only a dentist can see a possible problem, and it is always better to start treatment in the earlier stages.
A cavity if not caught early can sneakily eat its way in to the pulp of your tooth. That’s when the pain strikes. The treatment then shifts from what would have been a simple filling, into a 3 or 4 visit Root Canal Procedure. This is how regular visits can help identify problems early and avoid expensive and time consuming procedures later.
DID YOU KNOW?
Research has shown that periodontal disease may be responsible for up to 18 percent of preterm births. This is not to say that Gum disease is the only or main factor causing Pre term births. But that it could slowly and steadily contribute to it if left unchecked. Periodontal disease may be as detrimental to pregnancy as smoking or alcohol abuse.
What you should know about your dental needs and pregnancy:
- Brush with a fluoride toothpaste and floss twice daily.
- Have preventive exams and cleanings during pregnancy or better still, take routine dental check-ups before you are pregnant, so that you can deal with these issues earlier.
- Tell your dentist (even if not asked) that you are pregnant so that he/she can make your visit safer as well as more comfortable with regard to your pregnancy.
- Maintain healthy circulation by keeping your legs uncrossed while you sit on the dentist’s chair.
- Supine Hypotension Syndrome: While at the dentists’ do not lie down flat on your back for a long time on the dental chair, especially after the 5th month. This can cause symptoms such as sweating, a feeling of breathlessness, nausea or dizziness. This happens because the growing fetus and enlarged uterus exert pressure on the large vessels of the heart (Aorta and Inferior Vena Cava) when in this position.
Prevention is by elevating the right hip by 10-12 cm (with a small pillow or sheet rolled-up) to relieve the pressure exerted on the major vessels
- Elective treatments such as teeth whitening and other cosmetic procedures can be postponed until after the birth of the baby.
- The presence of infection or pain may require that you take antibiotics or a local anesthetic injection to complete a procedure. Even though these are almost always safe to proceed with, when in doubt, feel free to consult with your Obstetrician before taking any medications.
Dr. Smita Sukumaran
GMC Hospital – Fujairah