Protecting Pregnant Patients – What Dentists Should Know

During pregnancy, a vast amount of hormonal, chemical and metabolic changes are occurring. These can cause food cravings, affect mood and provoke digestive alterations, all of which have implications for a patient's oral health. When treating a patient who is pregnant or is trying to become pregnant, remind them that having a healthy pregnancy means maintaining and being proactive about oral health.

Common Oral Conditions during Pregnancy:
Pregnancy gingivitis – a condition influenced by the hormonal processes involved in pregnancy. Although maintaining excellent oral hygiene can lessen the risk of developing it, pregnancy gingivitis can happen regardless of health and results in swelling, tenderness, and mild bleeding upon brushing or flossing. More frequent checkups may be required if the condition does not improve with standard treatment.

Higher risk of tooth decay – food cravings can result in an increased intake of acidic, sweet or high-carbohydrate snacks, and the decreased stomach volume as the baby grows mean more frequent meals between brushings which can increase the amount of tooth-eroding biofilms. This is the mechanism behind the folk saying, "a tooth lost for every baby born." It may be necessary for patients to brush more frequently than twice a day to combat this, and drink plain water between meals.

Pregnancy tumors – sometimes, outgrowths of tissue colloquially referred to as "pregnancy tumors" can form on the gingiva, most commonly during the later stages of pregnancy. These growths have a raw, bright red presentation and bleed if stimulated. While not cancerous, this condition can be alarming, and patients may need reassurance that growths usually subside after childbirth, and if not, they can be easily removed.

Baby Safety:
A common question of expectant mothers is "will this treatment pose any risk to my child?" The good news is that in the vast majority of cases, it is perfectly safe for pregnant patients to have routine x-rays, fillings and local anesthetic. Remind them that in addition to avoiding harmful things during pregnancy, they must also be proactive about their oral health. Studies have shown that poor oral health of the mother is associated with preterm and low-birthweight babies, possibly due to the increased access of bacteria to the blood stream through inflamed gingiva.

Sources:
Curtis, J. Sensitive teeth during pregnancy: What to expect and how to cope. Retrieved February 27, 2017, from http://www.colgate.com/en/us/oc/oral-health/life-stages/oral-care-during-pregnancy/article/sensitive-teeth-during-pregnancy-what-to-expect-and-how-to-cope-1114

Dental concerns during pregnancy - American dental association. (2017). Retrieved February 27, 2017, from mouthhealthy.org, http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/pregnancy/concerns

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