The Pregnant Dental Patient
Nine Months! Then they make you take it home with you! Yeah, I know there’s a little more to it than that. A whole lot more. We actually break pregnancy down into pre-conception and three distinctive trimesters:
- Stop smoking
- Stop drinking
- Stop waiting!
First Trimester (weeks 1-12)
- Conception: This is a very critical time in the development of your baby physically speaking. Of course, everyone knows you need to cut out bad habits like smoking (low birthweight problems), drinking alcohol(fetal alcohol syndrome), recreational drugs (even if you think you might have “Californian glaucoma”), certain prescription medications (consult your medical doctor first), stress, herbs (consult your medical doctor), and yes, caffeine(miscarriages).
- Folic Acid: The importance of a good diet and multi-vitamin supplements cannot be over stressed before and during pregnancy. Lack of folic acid has been linked to midline disorders such as neural tube (spinal bifida) and cleft lip/palate.
- Weight: If you are planning to get pregnant, it is a good idea to get yourself in shape before you conceive. Weight gain is a problem for many women. Eating sugary sweets can not only be a problem for your general health, but can be a problem for your teeth as well. It takes four factors to get a cavity: tooth, bacteria, sugar, time. If you let your teeth bathe in sugar long enough for the bacteria to eat and excrete acid you have a higher chance of developing a cavity.
- Tooth Development: No tooth buds are developing in this trimester.
- Dental Treatment: This is routinely not a good time to have elective dental work done. This reason for this is because the babies body is forming critical parts and we simply do not want to interfere with any of these processes. Dental emergencies unfortunately do not wait for anyone and can be addressed during this trimester under the guidance of the patient’s OB physician. Dental x-rays can be take at this time, but with a leaded apron. Nitrous Oxide should be avoided.
Second Trimester (weeks 13-26)
- Dental Treatment: If you are going to have dental treatment during a pregnancy, this is the best trimester to have it in. The baby has already developed all of its critical systems and is in the process of growing bigger.
- Tooth Development: This is the time when the baby teeth are beginning to develop.
Third Trimester (week 27-42)
- Dental Treatment: This is a relatively safe time to have dental treatment, but is routinely avoided during this trimester because of the fear of stimulating premature delivery. Again, dental emergencies can be addressed under the guidance of your OB physician.
- Tooth Development: The first permanent teeth (upper and lower 1st molars) are beginning to develop at the time of birth.
- “My teeth are bad because when I was pregnant my baby just sucked the calcium right out of my teeth.” You would be surprised how many times I have heard that. A patient once said she was told that by several dentists! Of course, this was an attempt to make me believe her story (which I did not). The simple fact is that there is no evidence pregnant mother’s TOOTH calcium levels are affect by pregnancy.
- “I’ve lost a tooth for every child I’ve had.” Again, this must imply that the baby has diminished the calcium in the mother’s teeth somehow? Indeed, some mothers do loose teeth around the time they have their children. This has more to do with the timing than with the actual pregnancy. Practically everyone goes through a break in their dental care to one degree or another some time in their life. A common break is between the time that your parents are taking care of you (0-18 years old) and the time when you learn to take care of yourself. Unfortunately, this is about the mid twenties and they go to the dentist for a problem such as a toothache. This also corresponds to the time when most women begin having their babies.
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