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Dr. Edwards' Blog

New Research Says Pregnant Women SHOULD Go to the Dentist-12/3/16

Once a woman gets pregnant, it isn't unusual for her to stop many of her normal routines for the sake of the baby's health.  One of those routines is regular visits to the dentist for cleanings and checkups.  

A professor at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine and practicing dentist took another look at what he calls the "myths" of dental care danger and pregnancy.  Dr. David Leader started his research by looking at how dentists feel about the routine treatment of pregnant women.  A study published last summer shows a majority of dentists have doubts and fears about the care of pregnant women, to a greater or lesser degree, especially with regard to the use of X-rays and prescriptions.  

Dentists' hesitation certainly may influence a woman's desire to delay dental treatment until after her baby is born.  But Dr. Leader says pregnant women should go to the dentist for routine cleanings and even X-rays.  He says avoiding dental care is a problem, because normal health changes during pregnancy cause women to have more gum disease, called periodontitis, and tooth decay. The growing womb presses on the stomach, which can cause heartburn or gastric reflux, softening or dissolving tooth enamel. Teeth with thin or weak enamel have a high risk of decay and are sensitive to cold food and drink.

During pregnancy, increased hormone levels cause gums to be more sensitive to bacterial plaque that normally forms on teeth. Women may notice that their gums are swollen or tender and bleed more easily.  

Dr. Leader says pregnant women have even asked him to diagnose and treat dental infections without dental X-rays. In fact, he believes X-rays, routine cleanings, root canal treatment and many local anesthetics are safe during pregnancy. He cites the research by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology that states all dental X-ray examinations (with the usual lead shielding over the abdomen and thyroid) are safe during pregnancy.

Advice from Dr. Edwards:  If you are one of my patients and you're pregnant, please let me know..  We'll sit down together and you can tell me all your concerns. As a father myself, I understand your excitement of adding another member to your family, but also the fears that go along with that.  You can count on me to take the time to answer all the questions you might have about dental procedures you need and any risks involved.  I want you to leave my office feeling reassured that your health and the health of your unborn child is a top priority for me and my dental team.


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