In 2011, approximately two-thirds of women had their teeth cleaned the year before giving birth, but roughly only one-half had their teeth cleaned while pregnant, according to a study conducted at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. While a variety of factors may keep a pregnant woman from visiting a dentist in SW Portland, OR, some may avoid receiving care because they’re uncertain whether it’s safe.
There’s a long held belief by many women that visiting a dentist while pregnant could place the health of their baby in jeopardy. This leads many women to avoid the dentist until after childbirth, or for patients to request treatments without the use of dental X-rays. However, despite the various ideas surrounding dental care, routine cleanings, X-rays, root canal treatments and even the use of many local anesthetics are completely safe during pregnancy.
Despite the fact that research has found these types of treatments non-threatening to either the health of the mother or child, many medical and oral health care providers remain unsure of whether to recommend routine dental care during pregnancy. Unfortunately, not only are women more likely to encounter oral health problems while pregnant, these types of issues may actually lead to systemic health problems for both the mother and child.
The Dangers of the Dental Care Myth
While it’s hard to say with certainty where the misconception surrounding dental care and pregnancy may have originated from, it seems like this idea has been around for a while. Documentation exists that suggests even 19th century dentists believed woman should avoid receiving dental care due to the “fragile” nature of their condition while pregnant.
Today, a general sense of caution regarding pregnancy – and perhaps even an uncertainty about what is or is not safe – contributes to keeping this particular misconception alive for patients.
For example, a 2014 survey of North Carolina dentists found that while over 80 percent of responding dentists felt comfortable discussing the relatively low risks of treatment during pregnancy, only about 50 percent were confident enough to provide treatment to patients who may be at risk for adverse pregnancy outcomes.
Unfortunately, avoiding dental care during pregnancy can cause serious consequences. The normal hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy cause women to have an increased risk of gum disease and tooth decay. The expanding womb presses on the stomach, which can cause frequent bouts of heartburn that leads to the softening or dissolving of tooth enamel. Teeth with weak or thin enamel have a higher risk of decay and an increased sensitivity to hot and cold foods and drinks.
Increased hormones levels during pregnancy cause gums to become more sensitive to plaque that normally forms on the surface of tooth enamel. Expectant mothers may also notice that their gums feel swollen, tender or that they bleed more easily when brushed.
A 2011, study found that periodontitis, a severe form of gum disease, was a risk factor for early labor and low birth weight. A similarity exists between inflammation and bacterial infection – a proven risk factor for preterm labor and low birth weight – and infection and inflammation due to periodontitis. Additional studies have discovered that periodontitis is a potential risk factor. However, a clear cause and effect relationship has yet to be established between periodontal disease and pregnancy problems.
The Need to See Your Dentist in SW Portland, OR
Regular teeth cleanings help to remove bacteria and hardened plaque from the surface of your teeth. This simple treatment can significantly lower the risk of a variety of health problems, especially for pregnant women.
The recommendation for most pregnant women is fairly simple. Schedule appointments to see Dr. Teasdale just as regularly as you did before becoming pregnant. You can trust that Dr. T will only recommend treatments and prescribe medications that are completely safe during pregnancy. For the most part, pregnant patients can receive the same standard of care that any other patient could. This means that delaying treatment out of fear of what could happen to the health your baby should no longer prevent you from receiving the level of care needed to ensure you and your baby remain healthy and avoid the potential side effects caused by gum disease.