There’s no shortage of advice out there for expectant moms, and a lot of it can sound pretty familiar: Eat well, exercise, take those vitamins, steer clear of tobacco, alcohol, and kitty litter boxes…. You get the idea.
And, of course, a key part of prenatal care includes working with your healthcare provider – whether a family doctor, obstetrician, or midwife. In fact, prenatal healthcare is so important that women are often advised to make a “preconception” appointment if they’re even thinking about becoming pregnant.
Yet dental care is often left out of the picture. In fact, there’s a persistent myth that expectant mothers should avoid the dentist all together.
In truth, preventive oral health care is extremely important for mother and child alike.
Just recently, this was explored in a review article in Evidence-Based Dentistry. Results from five moderate- to high-quality studies on prenatal oral health care and early childhood caries (ECC).
Those kids whose mothers received dental care during pregnancy had significantly reduced levels of S. mutans in their mouths – one of the main types of bacteria involved in the decay process. If pathogens (harmful microbes) such as this are reduced in the mother, there’s less than can be passed on to baby, before or after birth.
The authors conclude that prenatal oral healthcare has a positive effect on incidence of early childhood caries and S. mutans carriage in children.
Another reason to keep up with dental care during pregnancy? Hormonal shifts can mean bad news for the gums, raising the risk of gingivitis and periodontitis. Regular dental care can help you keep those tissues healthier while you’re expecting.
Research has consistently shown a relationship between gum disease and poor birth outcomes such as low birthweight, preterm birth, preeclampsia.
But what about more intensive dental work – something more involved than cleanings and exams?
Truly, it’s okay – and recommended – that any necessary dental work still be done to reduce the chance of infection. It’s generally thought that the second trimester is the best time for this. Safety measures are taken with respect to the developing baby’s health, as well.
Any cosmetic or other elective work should wait until after pregnancy and, in the case of mercury removal, not only that but also after the baby has been fully weaned from breastfeeding. In that case, the risks are far too high, even when the SMART protocol is followed to the letter.
The IAOMT is very concerned about excess exposure to mercury when amalgam fillings are removed. The process of drilling out amalgam fillings liberates quantities of mercury vapor and fine particulates that can be inhaled and absorbed through the lungs, and this is potentially harmful to patients, dentists, dental workers, and their fetuses. (In fact, the IAOMT does not recommend that pregnant women have their amalgams removed.)
Suffice it to say, we believe pregnant women should also seek out mercury-free, mercury-safe practices to provide the care they do need in order to avoid exposure from the office environment.
But as for cleanings and necessary procedures? Rest assured, not only are they safe during pregnancy, they’re an essential part of your overall prenatal care.
Just as pregnant women are encouraged to eat smart, stay active, and stick with their schedule of prenatal visits, oral care is another valuable step toward ensuring your baby has the healthiest start possible!