Question: I am three months pregnant, and my gums feel a little bit sore. Should I put off going to the dentist until after my child is born?
Answer: During pregnancy, many women experience increased sensitivity and puffiness of the gums. Pregnancy causes an alteration in the estrogen and progesterone levels that, when coupled with plaque that is present in the mouth, can cause an exaggerated form of gingivitis (inflammation of the gums). In some cases, the infected gum can form a benign growth, called a pregnancy tumor. The pregnancy tumor does not usually require treatment, and resolves after the child is born. Professional dental cleanings twice during your pregnancy, as well as frequent daily brushing (3 times a day) and flossing, will greatly reduce gum swelling, sensitivity, and the risk of pregnancy tumor.
Most dental treatment can be safely completed during pregnancy. Despite the extremely low radiation of dental X-rays, routine check-up X-rays are usually avoided during pregnancy if the expectant mother has received routine dental care, and is in good dental health. If the expectant mother is in pain, dental X-rays can be safely taken, but I advise using two lead aprons to shield the radiation. Dental anesthetics at regular doses are not harmful to the unborn child. Some obstetricians advise dentists to use anesthetics without epinephrine during pregnancy.
Most antibiotics used by dentists during pregnancy do not put the unborn child at risk. Acceptable antibiotics include penicillin, amoxicillin, and clindamycin. Dentists should avoid prescribing tetracycline and narcotic pain medication, and not recommend over the counter pain relievers such as aspirin, and ibuprofen (Advil). Dental pain should be treated with acetaminophen (Tylenol) in most cases.
The best time for dental treatment during pregnancy is in the second trimester. Elective dental treatment such as cosmetic dentistry should be postponed until after the child is born. Always consult your obstetrician if you have any questions about medications or treatment provided by your dentist.