Technology has made dental visits a straightforward process. Patients know that they will be treated with safe, non-invasive care throughout their appointment. Gone are the days of feeling in serious pain during the simplest treatments like teeth cleanings. Regardless of a patient’s needs, modern dentistry has ensured the safest and most effective level of treatment imaginable.
This high standard of treatment has also been achieved in part by the introduction of local anesthesia, helping dentists complete their procedures while allowing patients to feel more relaxed and at ease. It’s become one of the most trusted tools in a modern dentist’s tool kit, and one of the safest to boot.
Despite the positive track record of dental anesthesia, there are certain groups that may be cautious when it comes to using it. Pregnant women are careful about everything, and understandably so, but is this a group that should worry about using general dental anesthesia while pregnant? Should they think twice before visiting a dentist’s office in the first place?
Can You Go to The Dentist While Pregnant?
Many pregnant women are under the illusion that they should skip out on seeing a dentist until after they give birth. The reality is, routine dental care can be done throughout a woman’s pregnancy without prompting any issues for her or for her child.
In addition to her regularly scheduled cleanings, a pregnant woman can go to the dentist for a number of safe procedures including dental x-rays, dental fillings during pregnancy, and even tooth extractions.
That said, it’s important for the patient to articulate that they are pregnant with their dentist beforehand so that there are no opioid drugs prescribed. Other than that, there’s no reason for a pregnant woman not to see her dentist. Choosing not to see one could be a detrimental decision for the woman’s oral health.
Risks of Not Seeing a Dentist While Pregnant
In general, women are more susceptible to oral maladies while pregnant. According to the American Dental Association Council, nearly 75% of pregnant women have gingivitis which is believed to be caused by changing hormones during pregnancy. Around 40% of pregnant women have some form of periodontal disease.
Without visiting a dentist, gingivitis will cause the bone that supports the tooth and gums to become loose which can escalate into full blown periodontitis if not treated early.
The changing eating behaviors associated with pregnancy can also contribute to tooth problems. Newfound cravings can lead to a higher intake of things like sugar which can cause cavities, as well as different eating schedules.
Everyday Dental Health Steps a Pregnant Woman Should Take
It’s important to continue to take the everyday steps towards a healthier mouth by regularly flossing and brushing throughout the pregnancy. For women who were not as diligent about this beforehand, a child is a good reason to start.
Any newly pregnant woman should take the time to consult a dentist to make sure she is in the healthiest position for herself and her child.
Can I Get Wisdom Teeth Removed While Pregnant?
This is one of those “consult your doctor” moments. While most dental procedures are extremely safe during pregnancy, including the act of getting a wisdom tooth removed, it’s always important to speak with a dentist before booking the removal appointment. Some dentists may advise that the patient delays the wisdom tooth removal until after the pregnancy.
What Are The Most Common Dental Procedures for Pregnant Women?
Pregnant women don’t have drastically different dental needs from other patients, except that their needs have greater ramifications beyond themselves.
Here are the most common dental procedures that a pregnant woman might seek.
A cleaning is the most common dental treatment for most people, including pregnant women. It’s also the safest.
Most cleanings are performed without the need for anesthesia. Only under rare circumstances would a dentist feel the need to provide sedatives to calm their patients. Sedation dentistry is typically only beneficial to people with small mouths who have discomfort during these types of procedures.
Wisdom Tooth Removal & Teeth Extraction
Wisdom tooth removal and extractions are a more complicated matter. Wisdom tooth extraction is a surgical procedure that typically requires the use of anesthesia by an oral surgeon.
Wisdom teeth are the final permanent teeth to appear in someone’s mouth, usually between the ages of 17 and 25. Many people develop impacted wisdom teeth around this time which can be hazardous.
If a pregnant woman is experiencing issues with wisdom teeth, she should consult her dentist right away to determine her best course of action. Some dentists may recommend she undergo the extraction procedure immediately if the situation is bad. If the situation is not very imminent, some dentists may advise her to wait until after her pregnancy.
Problems with an impacted wisdom tooth include trapping food behind the problem tooth, damage to nearby teeth or bones, growth of a cyst around the wisdom tooth, and interference with orthodontic treatments being used to straighten other teeth.
Regardless of pregnancy status, the patient should consult their dentist to learn how many wisdom teeth should be removed, how long the procedure will last, and if there is a risk of receiving nerve damage from the procedure.
Cavities & Fillings
Having a cavity is no fun, but the filling process is typically fast and relatively painless. It’s especially important that pregnant women get these cavities filled before the issue exacerbates.
There are different types of fillings, including amalgam, composite, metals, ceramic, and glass ionomer. A dentist can safely numb your teeth and gums to help you avoid unnecessary discomfort during the procedure without posing any risk to the patient, including while pregnant.
This also includes a pregnant patient who is due to have their previous filling replaced. If they have noticed any new cracks or obviously worn areas, it’s likely time to have the filling replaced. It should be done as soon as possible without question.
According to the American Dental Association and American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, it is perfectly safe to receive root canal anesthesia during pregnancy. Local anesthetics are safe and effective at preventing pain during the procedure.
As far as scheduling your procedure, certain times may work better than others. Your first trimester might be slightly riskier to undergo a root canal, while your second trimester is likely the most optimal time. Even though your third trimester is likely safe, it is also very inconvenient to have to lay back in a dentist’s chair.
There’s also the risk posed by antibiotics. Dentists will always stray away from prescribing antibiotics to pregnant women who are at a higher risk of something going wrong. Managing dental pain is important, but dentists will always proceed with care when it comes to treating a pregnant woman. There needs to be a balancing act between being careful with a pregnant woman and putting extra stress on a baby when a mother is in pain. Talk to your dentist or oral surgeon ahead of the root canal procedure to understand your best options.
Yes, dental x-rays are safe during pregnancy. The level of radiation used in a dental X-ray is extremely low. It is not high enough to cause harm to a pregnant woman or her unborn child. Plus, there’s an extra layer of protection used during this process. Dentists always place a heavy apron over the person before switching on the X-ray machine.
This leaded apron is meant to reduce exposure to radiation throughout the X-ray process. While it may feel heavy when the dentist first puts it on, it is 100% safe to use regardless of your stage of pregnancy.
Some women may still feel uneasy about receiving X-rays during pregnancy, despite the fact that it’s a safe process. It comes down to peace of mind.
If a patient feels unsafe, they may want to postpone their dental X-rays until at least after their first trimester. Otherwise, they can consult their dentist to determine the best time for their next X-ray appointment.
Dangers of Dental Work While Pregnant
Although most dental treatments are safe and effective for pregnant women, there might be situations where those treatment options are not advisable.
Some elective procedures like teeth whitening are usually recommended for after the pregnancy concludes since they may utilize a high concentration of hydrogen peroxide and other chemicals. However, it remains unclear whether they are outwardly unsafe.
Teeth whitening could theoretically cause tissue damage, thanks to the enlargement of swelling and inflammation in the gums during pregnancy. It can also promote tooth sensitivity issues since the pregnant mother is extra sensitive during this time period anyway.
There isn’t crystal clear evidence that teeth whitening will cause problems, that’s why we are theorizing here. Ultimately, a pregnant mother should discuss all of her dental options with a physician before proceeding.
Thankfully, the incredible advances in medical technology have made these unlikely issues even more unlikely to happen. New, innovative dental products are hitting the market constantly to alleviate any fear or discomfort a patient might have.
One of the most talked about devices is the new STA Single Tooth Anesthesia System, helping dentists provide better care with less stress. This system is one of many fantastic aids designed to make a dentist’s life easier, and a patient’s experience better. Thanks to automatic controls that regulate the pressure used during an injection, a dentist can feel much more in command when it comes to staying within the patient’s pain threshold.
Any device that gives the dentist visual and audio feedback for every movement they make around an injection site is critical to help them make the right decisions for their patient. By eliminating the vast majority of dangers associated with anesthesia, pregnant patients can feel more at ease when receiving the treatment, they need.
The Benefits of Dental Visits During Pregnancy
While there may be some low-level risks for a pregnant woman to visit the dentist, there are many clear benefits that shouldn’t be ignored.
Pregnancy is a time of change. There is a litany of emotional, mental, and physical changes at play for any expectant mom, and it’s a difficult journey to navigate through this uncharted territory. It’s best to be as on top of matters as possible.
Rather than punting a tooth problem down the road, it’s important to address it sooner than later. Tooth maladies can lead to issues for the pregnant mother thanks to her changing hormones, causing issues that might only get worse if nothing is done.
By maintaining her regular dental checkups, a pregnant woman can ensure a healthier life for herself and her child.
Does Anesthesia Affect Pregnancy?
Is anesthesia bad for pregnancy? That conclusive answer is no. But as is the case with anything medical, talk to a professional before doing anything that might make you uneasy.