Can you go to the dentist when pregnant?

If you want to avoid tooth decay and other health problems during pregnancy, make sure you book an appointment and get those pearly whites checked. We spoke to Shirin Parsno, a family dentist to understand more.

2 min read
Pregnant woman at dentist appointment.

Can you go to the dentist when pregnant?

If you want to avoid tooth decay and other health problems during pregnancy, make sure you book an appointment and get those pearly whites checked. We spoke to Shirin Parsno, a family dentist to understand more.

2 min read

Why is dental health in pregnancy important?

During pregnancy, your dental health is more important than ever—for you and your baby. Best of all, it’s free!

Did you know that you run a greater risk of experiencing dental problems in pregnancy because of your changing hormones, a difference in eating patterns and morning sickness that exposes your teeth to more acid?

Your gums are also more vulnerable to the formation of plaque, which can lead to bleeding gums and gum disease. So, it’s vital to make sure your teeth and gums are kept clean and healthy during pregnancy to avoid tooth loss and other health problems.

How can I keep my teeth healthy throughout pregnancy?

  • The NHS website has plenty of helpful information about caring for your teeth while pregnant. There’s also plenty you can do at home to keep your teeth, gums and mouth healthy including:
  • Brush your teeth for two minutes twice a day with fluoride toothpaste to remove plaque.
  • Think about getting an electric toothbrush.
  • Use interdental brushes or floss each day to get rid of plaque and trapped food.
  • Check which mouthwashes are safe to use in pregnancy.
  • Stay away from fizzy and acidic drinks, or juices.
  • Keep hydrated with plenty of water.
  • Try not to snack between meals.
  • Eat foods rich in calcium such as cheese, milk, yoghurt, tofu, soya beans, nuts and green leafy vegetables. This also helps your baby’s teeth develop.

Is it safe to go to the dentist when pregnant?

The answer is yes – for some treatments, though others have to be avoided. You should ensure that your oral hygiene is scrupulous during these important few months.

A check-up is obviously fine and other safe treatments that your dentist can offer include cleaning and scaling your teeth to remove tartar. This helps avoid gum disease.

What dental treatments are not safe when pregnant?

Although most dental treatments are completely safe to have when you’re pregnant, some are to be avoided.

Routine dental X-rays

You will not have routine dental X-rays while pregnant, especially during the first trimester, so make sure your dentist knows you are pregnant. If, however, you have a dental emergency, you should accept the treatment suggested.

Some anaesthetics

It’s fine to have a local anaesthetic. The one most often used, lidocaine, does not cross the placenta into the baby and should be given in sufficient amounts that you’re not in pain. It’s worse for your baby for you to be in pain and stressed.

Check your antibiotics

If you have a tooth infection that needs antibiotics, your dentist can offer one that is safe in pregnancy.

Removal of fillings

Some doubt has been raised about the health risks of mercury amalgam fillings. While you should not have them taken out while pregnant, you’re not advised to have new amalgam fillings while you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Whitening and cosmetic treatments

You should avoid whitening or cosmetic treatments during pregnancy, as these treatments use hydrogen peroxide in high amounts.

Make sure your dentist knows if you take other medication or have health problems during pregnancy.

Planning your pregnancy? Plan a dentist’s appointment too

If you intend to get pregnant soon, it’s a sensible idea to get your mouth checked and have any work you need completed before you conceive.

Don’t skip routine check-ups and check you’re brushing and flossing correctly. Ask your dentist for expert advice on which toothpaste to use.

Is it safe to lie back on the dentists’ chair while pregnant?

We’re told not to lie on our backs during pregnancy, as this can be harmful for your baby. Thankfully, the amount of time you’re in a dentist’s chair will not be a problem, especially if it’s inclined rather than lying flat. However, you may find that towards the end of your pregnancy, you’re simply not comfortable in this position.

It’s ideal to get dental treatment before you get pregnant, but if that’s not possible the second trimester is probably the best time to go. At this stage, you’re over any nausea you might have in the first trimester and not yet large enough to be really uncomfortable lying down for a period of time.

What tooth problems can occur during pregnancy?

Some women have swollen, tender gums, especially during the second trimester due to pregnancy hormones. But, advises Karen Coates of the Oral Health Foundation, “This is not the same as gum disease and your gums should return to normal when your baby is born. During pregnancy, you should make sure you remove all the plaque you can, as having a build-up will make soreness and bleeding worse.

“It’s a good idea to make an appointment with both the dentist and hygienist; don’t switch to a softer brush (it may be gentler but may not clean as well) until you’ve discussed your situation with them. The other thing I’d advise,” Coates adds, “is to try to keep mouth acid levels low to protect your enamel. If you have sickness, don’t brush your teeth straight afterwards; rinse with fluoride mouthwash or water, or chew sugar-free gum.”

Check out the British Dental Health Foundation website for more information on pregnancy and tooth care.

What to do if you’re experiencing gum problems during pregnancy

If you are experiencing excessively bleeding gums, speak immediately to your midwife or GP.

If you ignore gum problems, you may get a more serious condition called periodontitis. This weakens the bone and tissue that keep your teeth in your jaw, so you could lose teeth or develop painful abscesses.

Pregnancy epulis and tooth decay

Another condition called pregnancy epulis sometimes occurs. This is an abnormal gum growth which can happen during pregnancy and patients can be unnerved when they see it. It is due to hormonal changes and can easily be removed with laser treatment.

Tooth decay and cavities can be caused by a craving for sweets. Also, as you’re more tired than usual in pregnancy, you may miss flossing or brushing your teeth as much as normal. Added to this, morning sickness can mean that your teeth are more often exposed to stomach acids, which attacks your teeth.

How long does my free dental care last?

The great news is that dental care is free on the NHS from the beginning of your pregnancy through to your baby’s first birthday.

How can I find a dentist?

Not registered with an NHS dentist? Your local primary care trust is obliged to find you one. Just get a maternity exemption certificate (form FW8) from your midwife, GP or health visitor. Remember that though dentistry and check-ups are free, you will need to pay for hygiene visits.

Find a NHS dentist near you

With thanks to Shirin Parsno of Nova Dental Care

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