It is very important for women to visit the dentist during pregnancy for an oral exam to check for gum disease and evaluate any risks for infections that could cause problems for the pregnancy.
Is it safe to get regular preventative dental cleanings and annual dental exams during pregnancy?
Dr. Darren McKeever: Well as long as there isn’t something really unusual about the pregnancy, which normally the patient would know about. It isn’t just safe, it’s really important. The biggest most common thing that we see with pregnancy is rampant gum disease, where the gums just get very inflamed, even though people are cleaning. There is a different demand on the body’s priority when it comes to proteins and calcium; they’re all going to the baby, and the mouth gets sort of put at the bottom end of the supply chain, and therefore we tend to see a lot of problems with the gums. People who don’t get their teeth cleaned and evaluated for early signs of decay, they tend to have a lot more trouble with pregnancies.
Can oral infection, such as gum disease, contribute to preterm birth?
Dr. Darren McKeever: You know that’s something that shocks most people, but it has been clinically proven that with periodontal disease, lower birth weights in the baby seem to be a result. I’m not exactly sure why that happens. I think it’s probably a distraction of the body’s immune system, but it’s not uncommon for ladies who don’t take care of their gums and have periodontal disease to have a lower birth weight in the child.
Should pregnant women have cavities filled or get crowns fixed to reduce the chance of oral infection?
Dr. Darren McKeever: If there’s a risk of infection, absolutely. They should maintain their mouth. The things that are a little more significant, we have to take case by case. You really don’t want to have a very uncomfortable lady in the chair for an hour or an hour and a half, but to maintain the mouth during pregnancy is kind of important.
How is a dental emergency handled differently for a pregnant woman?
Dr. Darren McKeever: The most important thing, I think, is X-rays. Even though today’s digital x-ray, of which not all dental offices are using digital X-rays, even though today’s digital X-rays are so dramatically reduced in radiation, we still want to make sure we only take the X-rays necessary, get the information we need and double protect the patient because scatter radiation could go into the baby. After a certain period in the pregnancy, that is much less of an issue. Like I said, with the digital radiation, there’s hardly any radiation at all, but we still want to be very hygienic with that.
If we are really concerned about that, at least in my office, we have several adjunct tests that we can do that almost replace the need for an X-ray. There are lasers, there is trans illumination, there are spectrometers to evaluate whether or not a filling is leaking, so we don’t have to rely on X-rays as much as we used to years ago, and that’s an area where obstetricians just seem to love us because we don’t have to take as many X-rays to get an answer as we did years ago.
What type of dental work should be postponed until after birth?
Dr. Darren McKeever: Anything that is really major, that isn’t of an emergency basis. You really don’t want to get involved with that. Elective care, cosmetic work, there’s really no need to do that during the pregnancy period. Procedures that may involve some type of grafting, whether it’s soft tissue grafting or bone grafting, they are not going to have as high a success rate if they are done during pregnancy, because as I said, the mouth is going to get put on the tail end of the supply chain for the baby’s benefit. Things that are of an elective nature, not emergency and not routine maintenance, we really want to put those off until after delivery.
If you are interested in speaking with Dr. Darren McKeever, visit www.mckeeverdentalcare.com or call 973-839-8180 to schedule an appointment.