Monday, June 11, 2018

Stop avoiding your dentist when pregnant


By Dr Sakina Khanbhai

Between the mood swings and weird cravings, the struggle to look for clothes that fit, the swollen feet and constant visits to the washroom, there is simply no desire to add seeing a dentist on a pregnant woman’s to do list.

Having said that, ignoring one’s oral health especially while pregnant may pose some serious consequences in the long term.

Dental health should not take a back seat just because you’re pregnant. In fact, it should be a priority. The risk of developing tooth decay, gum disease and other oral health related issues is greater when one is pregnant because of the hormonal changes. Unfortunately, there are a lot of wrong beliefs and notions associated with pregnancy and dental care. In this article, I’ll aim at answering some of the most frequently asked questions with regards to receiving dental care during pregnancy.

Can I go to the dentist while pregnant?

You most definitely should! In fact it is recommended that you visit a dentist while you’re trying to get pregnant so that if there are any pending issues like impacted wisdom teeth, they’re taken care of. This saves you from unnecessary complications and having to deal with pain during your pregnancy.

Is it ok to get an X-ray done?

Exposure to radiation from X-rays is something that worries majority of the pregnant women.

However, a single dose of radiation is usually not high enough to pose any serious harm to the developing foetus as modern dental X-rays use very low doses of radiation.

Dentists usually make sure that protective gear is given to the patient while taking an X-ray. In this case it being a lead apron and thyroid collar.

Having said that, X-rays should be avoided if it is just a routine checkup especially during the first trimester but for dental emergencies and severe pain, it is best to get an X-ray done to better help plan a treatment.

Can I undergo orthodontic treatment while pregnant?

It is best to defer any new treatment during pregnancy so as to avoid complications. Getting braces initially requires radiological evaluation so it’s best to wait it out especially during the first trimester.

Also, due to weight gain, there is usually change in shape of the face and mouth thus braces may require adjustments and in case of retainers or aligners, new ones may need to be made, thus increasing overall cost of treatment. If one has already been undergoing dental treatment before pregnancy, there is no reason to discontinue.

Can I have a tooth extracted when pregnant?

Pregnant or not pregnant- pulling a tooth out is usually the last resort for a dentist as our aim is to save each and every pearly white teeth in your mouth for as long as possible.

But if it’s a grossly carious tooth that cannot be conserved then it is best to get it out to avoid any infections.

Extractions can be performed at any time during a pregnancy if absolutely necessary, but the best time according to most dentists is the second trimester. This is so because it avoids the need to have an X-ray taken in the first trimester when your baby is just developing and likewise avoid causing discomfort to the expectant mother in her third trimester by having to lie down on her back for long.

Can I get a root canal treatment done while pregnant?

Root canal treatment removes infected tissue from the pulp (the part that contains the nerve endings of a tooth). If a tooth is decayed to such an extent where the pulp is infected, root canal treatment is the best possible option to avoid loss of tooth by getting it extracted.

To sum it up, it is best to try and maintain good oral habits while pregnant, that is regular brushing and flossing, control unhealthy cravings and going for regular dental checkups.

Also, avoid brushing directly after morning sickness as the gastric acid can damage the enamel of the tooth. Instead, rinse with water and brush after waiting for at least 30 minutes.

The author is a dentist based at the Ebrahim Haji Charitable Health Centre.