Your teeth and gums during pregnancy
Urban myths abound about pregnancy and its affect on women's teeth. Is it true that when you gain a child, you lose a tooth? And do women lose calcium from their teeth during pregnancy and breastfeeding?
No, is the answer to both questions. Pregnancy by itself does not affect your teeth. What can put you at higher risk of dental decay is changes to your diet. Cravings don't help, particularly if you crave sugary snacks or fizzy drinks. And some women simply eat more frequently (snacking for two, so to speak).
For nine months your body seems to have a mind of its own and this can include your mouth. So in the same way that you see the doctor or midwife for regular checks during your pregnancy, the dentist and hygienist should also play an important role in managing your oral health.
One of the common problems in pregnancy is bleeding gums. Pregnancy gingivitis occurs in the first trimester and is caused by increased levels of progesterone causing an exaggerated response to plaque and other local irritants.
- When should I visit the dentist during pregnancy?
It's worth going for a check-up and a hygiene appointment when you find out you're pregnant. However, many women may find this is not possible in the first trimester due to morning sickness. From week 14 - week 20 is the ideal time for routine dental treatment, which is aimed at controlling disease and maintaining oral health.
- Why have my teeth become sensitive during pregnancy?
Gastric reflux or morning sickness may have caused erosion and, as a result, sensitivity. Fluoride varnish can be applied directly to teeth to help resolve this problem
- Is it dangerous for the baby if I have dental X-rays?
It is safe to have X-rays on your teeth when you're pregnant - you will be provided with a lead apron and collar. The use of digital and high-speed films has lowered the exposure.
But most dentists try to avoid X-rays in the first trimester unless absolutely necessary. If an X-ray was essential, the aim would be to keep the exposure as low as reasonably possible.
- Can I have local anaesthetic if I have to have a filling when pregnant?
Yes, local anaesthetics such as xylocaine and prilocaine, used in general practice, are safe.
- Would an amalgam filling be dangerous to my baby?
Using amalgam as a filling is still a controversial issue. It is recognised that amalgam restorations release mercury, which is also known to cause congenital malformation. But recent data shows that the mercury vapour released by amalgam filling is well below the toxic level. If you're worried about this, there is a range of alternative materials for filling teeth that offer a safe and aesthetic option.
- I have a tooth infection. Can I take antibiotics when I'm pregnant?
Penicillin V and amoxicillin can be given to pregnant woman. Tetracylines should be avoided as they cause tooth discolouration in infants and can inhibit bone development.
- What painkillers can I take when I'm pregnant?
Acetaminophen is the safest analgesic for a pregnant woman, so paracetamol, tylenol, aspirin and ibuprofen should not be taken in the third trimester, and medical advice should be sought before taking any of these.
- My bump is huge and I think I will find it uncomfortable to sit back in the dental chair. Is this a problem?
Actually, sitting comfortably in a dentist's chair can be a problem in the third trimester, because the uterus may obstruct the vena cava (the large vein that carries blood back to your heart) and pelvic veins. If treatment is necessary, place a small pillow under your right hip. This will make you lean on your left-hand side and take pressure off the vena cava.
- Take a look at our exclusive offers on maternity clothes and baby gear
- Local antenatal classes on Mumsnet Local
The information in this article was supplied by Dr Fiona MacKillop, a specialist in periodontics. She qualified from Glasgow University in 1993 and went on to specialise at Guy's Hospital. She joined the multidisciplinary Dawood and Tanner Practice in 2001. She also works at Guy's Hospital as an honorary clinical demonstrator in the Department of Periodontology.