Posted: Apr 17, 2012 5:32 PM
You might not be able to brush your teeth without dry heaving, but maintaining your dental health is oh-so-crucial in pregnancy. Here’s why you can’t forget about your teeth during those eventful nine months.

Stretch marks, weight gain, acne… as if there aren’t already enough unwelcome body changes to tolerate during pregnancy, a mom-to-be’s oral health can also be affected.

“It’s important not to skip your regular cleaning and check-up due to the effects of circulating hormones on gums,” says Gigi Meinecke, D.M.D., F.A.G.D. and a spokesperson for the Academy of General Dentistry. “The hormonal influences of pregnancy predispose the expectant mom to problems with her gums. When untreated, these changes may have an effect on her teeth.”

A red smile

The occasional bout of bleeding gums can be a common side effect of pregnancy known as pregnancy gingivitis, but it isn’t something to take lightly. According to Meinecke, this inflammation of the gums may lead to the destruction of bone surrounding the teeth, a condition called periodontitis. This bone loss may result in potential tooth loss, as well as painful abscesses, Meinecke explains, adding, “Periodontitis also places a mom at risk for preterm labor and a low birth-weight baby.”

That should be enough to convince you to keep up with your dental health.

All in the timing

Your second trimester is the optimum time for any dental treatment -- besides regular cleanings -- and only if the procedures are absolutely necessary. “When possible, treatment during the first trimester and latter half of the third trimester should be delayed,” says Meinecke. “This is a critical time in the baby’s development and it’s best to avoid exposing mom to anything that could influence her baby’s growth.” And, always tell your dentist that you’re expecting.

Procedures that get the green light

You'll discover, naturally, that limitations exist on what dental procedures are safe during pregnancy to maintain your oral health. If you’re due for X-rays during a normal check-up, it’s advisable to wait until after your baby is born.

Suffering with a cavity or in need of a root canal sooner rather than later? Be cautious of medications in particular. “Lidocaine is the most common numbing agent used in dentistry. It’s considered a category B drug, as is Tylenol and some antibiotics,” explains Meinecke. “Most expectant moms know it’s best to avoid medications during pregnancy. So, when dental work is needed, it’s best to use the smallest dose possible that still keeps the patient comfortable.”

And, of course, your vanity has already taken a back seat during pregnancy -- any cosmetic dentistry procedures like porcelain veneers or teeth whitening can certainly wait until your baby has made his or her debut.

More about the first trimester

First trimester ultrasound: What to expect
I'm pregnant! Creative ways to share the news
The 5 most surprising things about the first trimester