It’s time to consider what’s behind the radiant smile of a new mother-to-be. No, not the joy, anticipation and excitement that outweighs the acne – we’re talking teeth. My gums started bleeding as soon as I got pregnant, another charming outcome of the hormonal surges. Apparently this is just one of the common dental complaints pregnant women face. So how can we treat it? I asked Dr Asif Chatoo – founder of The London Lingual Orthodontic Clinic – how should pregnant women care for their teeth, can they wear braces, and are X-Rays safe?
What can pregnant women expect to happen to their teeth?
“It is especially important to take good care of your teeth and gums while you are pregnant as the hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy make the gums more susceptible to inflammation from plaque which can lead to gum disease. Over half of expectant mothers in the UK suffer from pregnancy gingivitis, so it’s not uncommon. If you experience gums that bleed more readily and become red, swollen and inflamed, talk to your dentist or hygienist who will advise on how to treat and prevent this.”
What treatment should you receive if you’re trying for a baby?
“Before you get pregnant, try and arrange a dental appointment so that you can see the hygienist and get your teeth professionally cleaned and have your gums examined. Any dental problems can then be treated in advance of your pregnancy.”
Can you have braces whilst pregnant?
“At my orthodontic practice, we have continued with teeth straightening treatments throughout pregnancy for some patients. Teeth still do move well when wearing orthodontic braces throughout pregnancy and this treatment doesn’t pose a risk to mother or baby. As long as the health of the gums is maintained by careful brushing and seeing a hygienist, there are no contraindications to orthodontic treatment when pregnant.”
Are there any treatments you should avoid?
“As a precautionary measure, avoid dental treatments during the first trimester and the last 6 to 8 weeks of pregnancy. This is because these are key growth and developmental stages for the baby, so it’s simply wise to avoid having any procedures that could affect this. Routine dental care can be received during the second trimester, but postpone elective treatment until after the baby is born.”If you are suffering from morning sickness, avoid the temptation to brush teeth immediately as the acid from your stomach can cause tooth erosion which worsens with brushing. Drink water instead and brush teeth an hour later.”
What about bleaching?
“We don’t have any evidence that whitening your teeth will pose a significant risk to you or your baby. But we don’t have enough data to say it’s safe either. I would recommend waiting until after you’ve given birth and also finished breastfeeding before having any teeth whitening treatment.”
Are X-Rays safe during pregnancy?
“I would advise pregnant women not to have x-rays taken when pregnant unless absolutely necessary, such as in a dental emergency. In these circumstances your dentist will use extreme caution to safeguard mother and baby. However, technological advances do mean that x-rays are far safer than say 20 years ago. The Department of Health advises to avoid removal or placement of amalgam (silver) fillings during pregnancy as a precaution, so wait until after your baby is born.”