From how you exercise to what you eat, pregnancy changes a lot about your everyday life. And you might find yourself wondering if there are any other habits that you should be changing or avoiding. When it comes to getting dental care, the answer may surprise you.

As a matter of fact, preventive dental checkups and cleanings are even more important when you’re pregnant. The same goes for addressing any tooth pain or other concerning dental symptoms that pop up during your pregnancy.

Below, we explain why taking care of your teeth is so important while pregnant, answer common questions and give tips for maintaining your oral health before labor.

First thing’s first: Is it safe to visit the dentist while pregnant?

Yes. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) considers the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of oral health conditions to be safe throughout pregnancy, as it serves to prevent more serious issues like infections.

It’s important to let your dentist know that you’re pregnant. That way they can help you maintain your oral health to prevent potential dental issues that can occur during pregnancy, which we list below.

Why is pregnancy dental care so important?

Pregnancy can affect your dental health

Pregnancy causes a number of changes in your body and lifestyle that can increase your risk for certain oral health conditions:

  • Hormonal changes can cause “pregnancy gingivitis” – Many women report sensitive, swollen or bleeding gums during pregnancy. This is because the increased levels of estrogen and progesterone in your body cause inflammation in your gingiva (the gum tissue directly around your teeth). Without proper care, this gingivitis can advance into more serious gum disease.
  • Routine changes can interfere with your daily oral care – Between pregnancy-related fatigue and sleep interruptions, you’re likely to be especially ready to go to bed at the end of the day. This increased tiredness may make it tempting to skip your evening brushing and flossing.
  • Changes in your eating habits can contribute to tooth decay – Pregnancy symptoms like nausea and food aversions can make it harder to eat balanced meals at traditional mealtimes. This means you may be snacking more. This in turn may mean that your teeth are getting exposed to more acid, as well as sugars and starches, which decay-causing bacteria feed on.
  • Morning sickness can wear on your teeth – When you vomit, your teeth get exposed to the acid from your stomach. This can contribute to tooth decay.

Your dental health can affect your baby

In more advanced cases, both tooth decay and gum disease can lead to infections. And if you get a mouth infection during pregnancy, it’s possible for it to move to the rest of your body, as well as your baby.

Additionally, since it’s possible for bacteria to be passed from mother to baby, a high amount of decay-causing bacteria in your mouth may lead to a high amount in your child once they’re born.

So by sticking to your preventive dental care and getting symptoms checked quickly, you protect not just yourself, but your little one too. That’s why if you have a HealthPartners dental insurance plan, you probably also have MouthWise Matters: a benefit that provides people who are pregnant with extra benefits that are covered 100% at a network dentist.

Other frequently asked questions (FAQs) about dental work while pregnant

Routine preventive care is one thing, but people also tend to worry about the safety of specific dental procedures during pregnancy. With ACOG’s recommendations in mind, we’ll answer the following common questions about specific aspects of dental care during pregnancy.

It’s generally recommended that optional or cosmetic dental care be put off until after birth, and that necessary procedures be done before the third trimester. This is because the baby’s weight at that point in pregnancy may make it hard to sit back in a dentist’s chair for long periods.

Can you get a cavity filled while pregnant?

Yes. You can get dental fillings during pregnancy.

Can you get a crown while pregnant?

Yes. You can have a crown placed while pregnant.

Can you get a root canal done while pregnant?

Yes. Root canals can be performed during pregnancy.

Can you get a tooth pulled while pregnant?

Yes. You can have a tooth extracted while you’re pregnant.

Is dental numbing and anesthesia safe during pregnancy?

Since some medications can be passed to the baby through the placenta, anesthesia use can be a source of worry for some parents-to-be. However, if you need a dental procedure during pregnancy, your dentist will only use as much local anesthesia (like Novocain) as it takes to keep you comfortable. This is considered safer than the stress that you and your baby would be put under if you had the procedure done without anesthesia or didn’t address the dental issue at all.

Lidocaine is the most common local anesthetic used for dental work and is considered relatively safe for pregnant women. Though nitrous oxide (laughing gas) can be used as to manage pain during labor and delivery, it’s usually recommended to avoid use of nitrous oxide throughout pregnancy. As long as you keep your dentist informed about the status of your pregnancy and any risk factors you have, they’ll be able to explain any anesthesia recommendations they give you.

Are X-rays safe during pregnancy?

It’s generally safe to get a dental X-ray during pregnancy. X-rays use low amounts of radiation, but as an extra precaution, your dentist will only take X-rays that are absolutely necessary for treatment. They’ll also have you wear a lead apron to protect your baby.

Look after yourself and your baby

Because of your heightened risk for oral health conditions during pregnancy, it’s more important than ever to stick to a schedule of regular dental checkups. They’re opportunities to catch issues early and get a deeper cleaning than you can get at home. But the foundation of your oral health is still what you do on a day-to-day basis. So to keep your mouth healthy during pregnancy, it’s key to:

  • Brush your teeth with a fluoride toothpaste at least twice a day and floss once a day.
  • Rinse your mouth with water after eating or drinking anything sugary, acidic or sticky. If you’re dealing with morning sickness, add 1 teaspoon of baking soda to 1 cup of water for an acid-neutralizing rinse. And if you have pregnancy gingivitis, regular rinsing with saltwater can help relieve symptoms.
  • Eat a balanced pregnancy diet to support your overall health and your baby’s growth.

And finally, if you’re due for a dental checkup, have questions about your dental care or are noticing changes in your mouth, make an appointment with a dentist.