Pregnancy changes your mouth. When you're pregnant, changes in your hormone levels can increase your chance of developing gum disease and other dental concerns. For that reason, it's always a good idea to stay in regular contact with and to schedule regular cleanings and exams with your dentist when pregnant.
Routine dental work is one thing. But, can you safely undergo a tooth extraction during pregnancy? The answer, as far as the American Dental Association and other health agencies are concerned, is yes.
One reason why many people are concerned about tooth extraction when a woman is pregnant has to do with outdated thinking on the subject of providing dental care to pregnant women. As The New York Times points out, many dentists used to be taught that it wasn't safe to treat women who were pregnant and would refuse treatment to women who needed it, no matter how severe the dental problem became.
Local Anesthesia and Other Safe Treatments
There is evidence that proves that having a tooth pulled or having another type of oral treatment during pregnancy is safe. The National Maternal and Child Oral Health Resource Center published a National Consensus Statement on Oral Care During Pregnancy. In the statement, the center advises OB-GYNs to reassure patients that local anesthesia, pain medicines and radiographs (X-rays) are safe during pregnancy. The statement encouraged OB-GYNs to advise their pregnant patients to follow any oral care recommendations from their dentists and to seek oral health care.
To see what effect local anesthesia had on babies exposed to it in the womb, the Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA) examined 210 pregnancies exposed to local anesthetics during the first trimester and 794 pregnancies not exposed to anesthetics. The authors of the study didn't find a difference between the number of miscarriages, birth weight or age at delivery in the two groups.
What About Other Forms of Sedation?
Local anesthesia might be all well and good for the baby during a tooth extraction, but what about more intense forms of anesthesia, such as IV sedation or general anesthesia? Generally speaking, it's advised that women avoid sedation and general anesthesia during pregnancy, although the National Maternal and Child Oral Health Resource Center notes that some types of sedation or general anesthesia may be used, in consultation with a prenatal care health practitioner.
When Should You Have the Tooth Pulled?
When it comes to a tooth extraction during pregnancy, timing is important. The American Pregnancy Association recommends having necessary dental work performed in the second trimester and postponing any non-essential treatments until after delivery.
By the time you get to the third trimester, you might find it very uncomfortable to lie back or recline while having the tooth pulled. You can also have dental work performed in the first trimester, and the pregnancies examined in JADA's study all received local anesthesia during the first trimester.
Of course, if you are having a true dental emergency and the tooth needs to come out ASAP, it doesn't matter which trimester you are in. Removing an infected or otherwise severely damaged tooth as soon as possible is better for you and the baby than leaving it to fester in the mouth.
Whether it's having a tooth pulled, a root canal or just a routine cleaning, it's important for your health and the health of your baby not to ignore your teeth and gums during pregnancy. If it's been a while since you've seen your dentist, make an appointment today. While you're at it, don't forget to practice great oral care to keep your teeth and gums clean between appointments.