Having healthy teeth and gums can help you have a healthy pregnancy. In fact, staying on top of your checkups and cleanings is strongly recommended.
But there are some procedures that should wait until after delivery. We’ve got the details you need to know before scheduling a visit to your dentist when you’re pregnant, what oral health issues you should be aware of, and how your insurance might cover multiple visits.
How pregnancy affects oral health
Those surging hormones that help your baby grow can also make your mouth more susceptible to plaque, bacteria, and sensitive gums, increasing your risk of pregnancy-related gingivitis, says Robert Berry, D.D.S., of Mountain Aire Dentistry in Broomfield, Colorado. In fact, roughly 60-75% of pregnant women have gingivitis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.¹ “Pregnancy gingivitis can cause red, swollen gums, and if left untreated it can develop into a more severe form of gum disease known as periodontal disease,” says Dr. Berry. “That is bad for mom, but also for the baby. Periodontitis has been linked to pregnancy complications, such as preterm birth and low birth weight.”
If a pregnant mother has gum disease, the bacteria from it can get into her bloodstream and affect the areas around the developing fetus, leading to potential infection and premature birth. Also, the increased inflammation in the body can also contribute to low birth weight.
Further, dietary changes during pregnancy, such as frequent snacking, can also worsen oral health and lead to more cavities, says David Alfi, D.D.S., M.D., an oral and maxillofacial surgeon in Houston, Texas. Then there’s morning sickness. Vomit is acidic, which can erode tooth enamel and increase the risk of cavities even more.
Finally, it’s common for saliva production to decrease during pregnancy. Saliva helps wash away plaque and food from your teeth. So when you produce less saliva, the bacteria and acids on your teeth stick around for a longer time, and that can lead to cavities. If left untreated, cavities can lead to an infection or even require oral surgery.
So, can you go to the dentist while pregnant?
Yes. If you are pregnant, you can and should go to the dentist. Staying on top of your dental checkups during pregnancy is the best way to catch potential problems early. In some cases, your dentist and doctor may even recommend extra follow-ups.
“Many people are under the impression that visiting the dentist is unsafe during pregnancy, but that’s simply not true,” Dr. Berry says. “Rather, mothers should be visiting the dentist on a more frequent basis for routine cleanings and exams to make sure that mom and baby are both healthy.”
Which dental treatments to avoid while pregnant
While it’s important to get checkups and necessary dental work to keep your oral health on track, not all dental treatments are recommended if you’re pregnant.
- Try to avoid x-rays, says Lindsay Appel, M.D., an ob-gyn at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. But if you have to get them, schedule them for before the third trimester, she advises. That’s because as your belly grows, it’s more difficult to completely shield it from the x-rays.
- Hold off on cosmetic treatments such as teeth whitening, says Dr. Berry. The chemicals used in teeth whitening can be harmful if you’re pregnant. Plus, the whitening agents can be too strong for your teeth, since your changing hormones will make your teeth weaker. “It’s best to avoid this elective treatment until after you’ve delivered the baby,” he says.
How insurance may cover dental visits when you’re pregnant
Because it’s important to see the dentist more frequently when you’re pregnant, some dental insurance plans may offer additional cleanings during and shortly after pregnancy. If you’re unsure what your plan offers, the best strategy is to check with your provider to see what’s covered and then maximize that coverage. As your pregnancy progresses, there will naturally be numerous appointments to ensure that you and your baby are healthy. Just make sure your dentist is part of that health team.
One way to help cover the costs of the dental portion of that pregnancy care team is by getting a dental plan. Call a licensed insurance agent at (800) 642-0607 to talk coverage, or compare plans online today.