Dental Care Tips During Pregnancy

by: Eric G. Jackson, DDS, MAGD, FICOI, FICD, FADI

Congratulations!!!  So you’ve got a baby on the way?  Or perhaps you know someone who is pregnant or trying to become pregnant.  The first place you should go is your medical doctor, but don’t forget about your dentist!  Yes, really!  Dental care is a bit different during pregnancy and your teeth may need a little extra attention.  Let’s review what you can expect and how you can watch for during each trimester.

Over the years I’ve lost count how many times a patient has told me some permutation of “when I was pregnant the baby stole the calcium from my teeth.”  In my experience, this isn’t typically true.  Being pregnant is tough and there are numerous mental and physical reasons why this is true.  Far more often than the baby, these mental and physical difficulties are the causes behind a decline in dental health.  Morning sickness is just one example of this.  As you likely know, acid and teeth don’t get along.  It is the acid produced by the bacteria on the teeth and in the gums that cause cavities and gum disease.  Imagine the potential damage that might occur to a pregnant woman’s teeth/gums if she is nauseous and vomiting daily due to the morning sickness.  Stomach acid can essentially melt away tooth structure in the same way the bacterial produced acid does.  Dental providers see similar changes in patients affected by the eating disorder Bulimia, and they can be severe.

The best recipe for dental success during pregnancy is to enter your 1st trimester in good dental health.  Additionally, speak with your dentist as early as you can and become as learned as possible about the dental aspects of those nine gestational months.  Specifically, speak with him/her about having your teeth cleaned more often.  I typically recommend every 3-4 months during pregnancy.  Finally, you need to put forth extra effort in your dental home care.  A rechargeable toothbrush (ie Sonicare or the like) is a fantastic tool and is something I recommend for every patient, not just the expectant ones. 

The following is a brief overview of common dental questions I often get asked as well as a trimester by trimester breakdown of additional dental items to keep in mind. 

General topics:

  • Is it safe to have dental work during pregnancy?
    • Allowable at any time in cases of emergency dental situations (pain, infection/swelling, etc), but I try to complete non-emergency work during 2nd trimester. 
  • Are X-rays safe to take during pregnancy?
    • X-rays are allowable in emergency dental situations but for non-emergency x-rays (ie checkup x-rays typically taken at your cleaning appointments) I recommend postponing until after birth of the baby. 
  • Is Nitrous Oxide (Laughing Gas) safe during pregnancy?
    • Not allowed at all as it is may cause miscarriage and/or preterm labor

Dental Tips by Trimester:

  • 1st trimester
    • Tell your dentist you’re pregnant and learn as much as you can about what you might expect during the next 9 months
    • Check with your dental insurance provider about extra cleanings during pregnancy
    • Watch out for Pregnancy Gingivitis (puffy, inflamed gums caused by changes in hormones) and maintain excellent dental home care
    • If you’re suffering from morning sickness use bland toothpaste and a soft, small toothbrush to minimize the chance of stimulating your gag reflex
    • If you vomit, try to rinse your mouth with water or a fluoride containing mouthwash like Listerine Total Care Zero afterwards.  Fight the urge to brush with toothpaste after vomiting.  The vomit is abrasive and brushing each time can compound the damage.
  • 2nd trimester
    • Avoid sugary snacks (even if you’re craving them). 
    • Complete any pending dental treatments you’ve been putting off
    • Include appropriate amounts of Vitamin-C, Calcium, and Vitamin-B12 in your diet.  Check with your medical doctor if you have questions about appropriate amounts
    • Watch for Pregnancy Granulomas (small temporary tumors found on the mouth of lips during pregnancy caused by changes in hormones)
  • 3rd trimester
    • Avoid dental treatments during the last six weeks of your pregnancy if possible
    • Be especially vigilant with your home care (Flossing, brushing, rinsing)
    • Schedule a dental appointment for after the baby is born
  • Postpartum/Nursing
    • X-rays, local anesthesia, and nitrous oxide are all safe while breastfeeding
    • Watch for Baby Bottle Tooth Decay: start brushing your baby’s teeth with a soft toothbrush and water as they come in
    • The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends that a child go to the dentist by age 1 or within six months after the first tooth erupts. Primary teeth typically begin growing in around 6 months of age.

Being pregnant is a wonderful and exciting time in a woman’s life, but it sure isn’t easy!  Become as knowledgeable about your body’s needs and be sure to maintain optimal medical and dental health throughout your gestational 9 months.  Future you, and your baby, will thank you for doing so!!  If you would like to speak further about dental care while pregnant, or any other dental topic, please feel free to call the office and schedule a complimentary consultation appointment with me.  Email and Twitter are also available options.  I am extremely passionate about modern dentistry and love discussing it with patients, so don’t hesitate to contact me. 



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