Should I see the dentist when I’m pregnant or not?
Pregnancy affects your whole body in some shape or form, including your oral health. Hormonal changes in the body can make your teeth and gums more sensitive during pregnancy. This may cause your gums to become tender and bleed more during this period. Going to the dentist might be the last thing on your mind during these 9 months. Unless of course you end up with an unexpected toothache. So what are the dos and don’ts of seeing your dentist during pregnancy? Is it better to rely on pain killers which are permitted during pregnancy, to see if the pain subsides and hold off on treatment until after childbirth? Or should you consider seeing a dentist for a more definitive treatment?
Protocol for seeing your dentist during pregnancy:
The one rule about seeing a dentist during pregnancy is to try and avoid going to a new dentist during this time. Your existing dentist should have some of your recent X-rays on hand. This way they won’t have to take new ones. Even though dental X-rays have minimal radiation exposure risks, you still want to avoid any unnecessary exposures if possible. Switching dentists during this time only complicates matter since your new dentist can’t do much without having your X-rays on hand.
Dental cleanings are allowed during pregnancy
Not only are you permitted to get a cleaning during your pregnancy, but it’s actually encouraged to do so. Especially if your gums are bleeding more than they normally do. If you’ve been diagnosed with gum disease in the past, going for over nine months without a dental cleaning could harm your oral health.
It’s best to try to squeeze in a single dental cleaning during these 9 months. The ideally trimester for getting your dental cleaning is the second one. You child develops the least during this trimester which makes it safer to seek treatment. Additionally, getting treatment midway during your gestation period reduces the time in between your dental cleanings by cutting it in the middle.
Dealing with a bad toothache for several months may not be as easy as you think!
Ideally you should avoid taking X-rays or receiving any invasive dental treatment during pregnancy. Of course having an emergency toothache is an exceptional case. If you’re experiencing severe pain and your due date is nowhere in sight, then you should have no choice but to seek emergency dental care.
If you have a regular dentist then this won’t pose too much of problem. Just make an appointment with them and let your dentist know right up front that you’re pregnant as well as how far along you are. Switching dentists during this period can be a bit more challenging. If nothing else, taking X-rays to identify the source of your pain and discomfort alone can pose quite a challenge.
You are allowed to seek dental treatment during pregnancy if you follow protocol
There’s a specific protocol to seeing your dentist for emergency toothache during pregnancy. You must follow these steps correctly if you want to get actual treatment. Otherwise chances are your dentist will refer you right back to your primary care or OB/GYN without giving you any actual treatment. Here is the check list of what’s required before you seek treatment:
Obtain a medical clearance letter
Dentists always ask for a medical clearance letter from your physician before performing any invasive treatment throughout your pregnancy. Once you’ve obtained this letter, your dentist is now permitted to give you actual treatment.
The medical clearance letter is a letter that your physician writes to instruct your dentist on what they are allowed to do. This letter can permit your dentist to take radiographs, administer anesthesia and perform emergency treatment. Try to obtain your medical clearance letter in advance of your appointment if at all possible. This will save you a lot of headaches since you are unlikely to receive any actual dental treatment otherwise.
Ask you physician for painkillers and other medicine, not your dentist
Dentists typically refuse to prescribe painkillers or other medications during your pregnancy. If you want prescription medicine, such as antibiotics or stronger painkillers, then ask your physician for them. Your dentist will most likely recommend an over-the-counter painkiller such as Tylenol and refuse to give you much else.
Take extra precaution during your appointment
There are minimal risks to seeking dental treatment during pregnancy if you and your dentist follow proper protocol. However you should still take extra precaution to be on the safe side. Here are hints on what you and your dentist need to pay attention to during treatment throughout your pregnancy:
- If possible, take only one or two X-rays of the area you’re having issues with. Avoid taking a full set of X-rays and only focus on where the problem is. Keep in mind that standard dental X-rays have very little radiation and also the radiation is nowhere near your abdomen. But still, you want to reduce radiation exposure whenever you can to play it safe.
- Stick with regular dental X-rays it at all possible. Panoramic radiographs and other types of X-rays have lots of radiation and are best avoided.
- Make sure you are double shielded when taking your X-rays. This means that you wear two X-ray shields for extra protection.
- Avoid being in a fully supine position for too long. Ideally, have your dentist place you at a 30 or 45 degree angle while remaining in the dental chair so long as it’s possible.
- Stay away from epinephrine at all cost. Epinephrine is found in anesthetics such as Novocaine and Lidocaine. This means that you should be get anesthesia without epinephrine during pregnancy. Keep in mind that epinephrine increases durability of the anesthetic agent, so you may require additional shots to maintain the numbness.
- Avoid sedation such as IV sedation or even Nitrous Oxide gas.
Dental treatment during pregnancy
From here on, the treatment you receive is mostly based upon your dentist’s comfort level dealing with pregnant patients. If your dentist is comfortable, you may be able to have your root canal treatment started or remove that painful tooth. Try to stick with a dentist you’ve already been to as finding a new dentist during pregnancy can be quite challenging.
However, many dentists still give you a hard time during pregnancy . If you end up needing a root canal or tooth removal, often times you will find yourself bing referred out to a dental specialist. you might have to see a oral surgeon or endodontist for treatment. This is not a bad idea, since these specialist are better suited to handle treatment during pregnancy.