What are precautions during pregnancy you should take when at the dentist?
Getting dental cleanings during pregnancy is not a big deal and is quite routine. On the other hand, any invasive dental treatment should be done with extra caution. For one, receiving elective or cosmetic dental treatment, such as fillings or whitening, is discouraged. Only emergency dental treatment is allowed during this period. Here is a list of precautions during pregnancy you should take when at your dentist:
Minimize your exposure to radiation during pregnancy
It is not advisable to take unnecessary X-rays when you’re pregnant. This includes X-rays for dental checkups, cavity detection or braces placement. Taking one or two X-rays to detect the source of a toothache is allowed. Additionally, it’s always best to avoid switching dentists at this time. Try to go to a dentist you’ve already been to recently so they have some of your current X-rays on file.
If you have to switch dentists, then request a copy of your most recent X-rays from you previous dentist. Take these X-ray copies to your new dentist on your appointment. A set of recent X-rays will provide your new dentist with a better picture of your overall dental history. This helps better narrow down the source of your problem and can help identify it without the need for too many additional X-rays.
Avoid receiving non-emergency dental treatment, aside from dental cleanings
You shouldn’t receive dental treatment such as fillings or crowns during pregnancy. Any invasive dental treatment, even a simple filling, could potentially end up causing complications and pain. You don’t need to deal with these unexpected problems during such critical times. Keep in mind that invasive dental treatment requires administration of anesthesia as well as X-rays, both of which are discouraged during pregnancy. Treatment such as fillings, whitening, crowns, non-emergency wisdom removals, etc. can all wait until after delivery.
But what if there’s a huge cavity which may hit your tooth nerve if you wait much longer?
Obviously it would be best if you sought treatment for these before becoming pregnant. After all if the cavity is huge, you must have known about it for quite a while! If you did miss this opportunity for whatever reason, then it’s best to just wait a few more months to fix your cavity after childbirth.
Fixing cavities during pregnancy can be quite risky. First off you require a shot and possibly additional X-rays, both of which are discouraged during this time period. Secondly, there’s always a risk your dentist end up getting too close or even hitting your tooth nerve when fixing your cavities. Should a filling end up having pain and discomfort after it’s been placed, treating it can be a major headache. Honestly, a cavity that has been in your mouth for a while already, can stay there for a few more months.
If you’re really worried about it, you can have your dentist place a temporary filling to cover it. A temporary filling can be placed without using any anesthesia or drilling into your tooth. Temporary filling will seal off your cavity to help protect it until you can receive definitive treatment later on. Two scenarios will follow. If the filling works well, then all you have to do is present right after delivery and have it fixed permanently. If however the tooth does end up hurting then you can start the root canal treatment and have it finalized after delivery.
Dentists like to minimize treatment during pregnancy
The same dentist who was pushing you to get this and that done just a few months ago is now going to avoid you like the plague during pregnancy! There is too much liability treating pregnant patients. Most dentists aren’t very comfortable doing invasive dental work during this period. Now, if you do end up with emergency pain and go through the troubles of obtaining a medical clearance letter, then you should be able to get some minimal treatment from your dentist. Generally there’s only a limited number of treatments your dentists will render during pregnancy:
- Partial root canal treatment, known as a pulpectomy. This is basically an incomplete root canal therapy to help temporarily relieve pain until you complete treatment after delivery.
- Complete root canal treatment which may be referred out to an endodontist.
- Tooth extraction which is commonly referred out to an oral surgeon.
Which treatment you receive could depend upon what your dentist is more comfortable with. Of course it’s your tooth ultimately so you should have the final say in what happens to it. Should your dentist refuse to offer you the treatment of your choice, then ask for a referral to an appropriate dental specialist. At this point you will either be sent to an oral surgeon to remove your bad tooth or an endodontist to perform a root canal or pulpectomy to save it. Keep in mind that since dental specialists are more skilled, they are typically better at managing pregnant patients.