It is completely safe to have regular dental cleanings while you are pregnant. Many women experience pregnancy-related gingivitis and other dental issues during pregnancy, and regular cleaning may help minimize the chances of developing a serious problem. However, we can’t always predict what will happen, and sometimes serious problems arise that need to be addressed.
The topic of dental treatments during pregnancy is one that gets a lot of attention, and the information can be confusing. One issue that is particularly controversial is the issue of treating wisdom teeth.
What can you do if you experience pain and swelling related to your wisdom teeth during pregnancy? Is it safe to treat them, or do you have to endure the pain until after you have your baby?
The bottom line is that you should schedule an appointment with your dentist immediately if you experience wisdom tooth pain while pregnant.
Problems Caused by Wisdom Teeth
To understand why it is important to see your dentist for wisdom tooth pain, let’s talk about some of the things that can happen if you ignore it:
- Swelling and pain in the gums can be fairly common during pregnancy. When wisdom teeth cause pain, even routine dental care such as brushing and flossing can be deeply uncomfortable. When you fail to brush properly, the chances of developing tooth decay increase dramatically.
- If the back of your mouth is crowded, wisdom teeth may end up putting pressure on your back molars. Sometimes wisdom teeth come through partially, but are still covered by skin. Either way, food particles can collect and decay there.
- If your wisdom teeth become infected, the infection can work its way into the bloodstream and have an impact on the health of your baby.
Pregnancy can be difficult enough on its own. When you add wisdom tooth pain to the mix, it makes everything harder than it needs to be. If your wisdom teeth hurt and you’re pregnant, the best thing to do is to call your dentist to talk about treatment options.
Dental Care Concerns during Pregnancy
Make sure to let your dentist know that you are pregnant. Your dentist will be able to evaluate your wisdom teeth and make a determination about whether treatment is necessary now or can wait until after delivery. In general, any situation that is causing pain or carries the risk of infection – both of which can potentially be true of wisdom teeth – needs to be dealt with immediately.
You should be aware of the potential treatment requirements and the risks they carry.
- X-rays are sometimes necessary to identify problems with wisdom teeth, but in general it is best to avoid getting any X-rays during pregnancy. Your dentist will determine if an X-ray is required, and will use a thyroid shield and other protective gear to keep you safe if X-rays are necessary.
- If your wisdom teeth need to be extracted, you will probably need some kind of anesthesia. However, your dentist will keep the amount used to a minimum, giving you just enough to keep you comfortable during the extraction while still protecting the health of your baby.
- You should not take any pain medication for your teeth without first talking to your dentist. Some commonly-prescribed pain medications can be harmful to a developing fetus. Examples include Percoset and oxycodone, which have been linked to serious birth defects. Your dentist will be able to recommend pain relievers that are safe to take while you are pregnant, such as acetaminophen. It is usually safe to take antibiotics to prevent or treat infection during pregnancy, and your dentist will let you know if you need them.
A professional evaluation of your wisdom teeth will reveal whether any of the above procedures or treatments are necessary. The most important thing for you to remember is that you should not ignore tooth pain when you are pregnant. Prior to seeing your dentist, you can feel free to use some natural home remedies to alleviate tooth pain, including:
- Clove oil
- Ice packs
- Salt water rinse
Any of the above can help give you some relief while you are waiting for your appointment.
The Timing of Treatments
The final thing that you and your dentist will need to consider when it comes to treating your wisdom teeth during pregnancy is when the treatments will be administered. There are some risks associated with having X-rays or anesthesia during the first trimester, when your baby’s internal organs are still developing.
Many dentists concur that the safest time for pregnant women to have any kind of dental procedure is during the second trimester of pregnancy. By that time, much of the important organ development has taken place, but the risk of discomfort as a result of lying on your back for a prolonged period is relatively small. Sometimes, non-essential procedures can be put off until you are through the first trimester.
That said, it is very important not to put off any procedure to treat a condition that may be harmful to your baby. There are two important reasons that indicate that waiting to treat wisdom teeth is not a good idea:
- Women who have periodontal disease, which can result from untreated wisdom tooth pain and is common during pregnancy, are four to seven times more likely to experience premature birth or have a baby with low birth weight than those who do not have periodontal disease.
- Prolonged tooth pain and discomfort are stressful to you, and there is plenty of evidence that suggests that it is not good for you or your baby during pregnancy. Stress, whether it’s caused by physical pain or emotional issues, triggers a host of physical reactions in the body. It can wreak havoc with your hormones, affect your blood pressure, and have many other negative effects on your health. It is always better to see your dentist to discuss the benefits and risks of treatment than to attempt to handle the pain on your own.
While some dental treatments may carry additional risks for women who are pregnant, it is essential not to ignore wisdom tooth pain. If you are pregnant and having problems with your wisdom teeth, please contact your dentist make an appointment today.
This article is by Dr. Jonathan Everett. Dr. Jonathan Everett received his Doctor of Dental Surgery from the University of Washington and completed his undergraduate studies in biochemistry at Washington State University.
A member of the American Dental Association and Academy of Operative Dentistry, Dr. Everett strives to continue providing the most advanced and clinically-proven dental care available in the region. Dr. Everett is the recipient of the International Congress of Oral Implantologists Award.