Back in 1985, when I graduated from UCLA Dental School, dentists were taught that we should postpone all non-critical dental treatment until after delivery of the baby. Any emergency dental treatment of infected teeth should be done right away. And any critical, but not yet infected teeth, should be treated during the second trimester to avoid possibly affecting the critical development times for the fetus during the first and third trimesters. The thinking was that, even though there is no evidence that anything we do (including local anesthetic and x-rays) has been shown to harm a developing fetus, it is better to be safe and err on the side of caution. Since then, however, doctors and dentists have become convinced of the safety and importance of dental care during pregnancy.
In July of this year, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) issued new recommendations stating that teeth cleanings and dental X-rays are safe for pregnant women. “We can all reassure our patients that routine teeth cleanings, dental X-rays, and local anesthesia are safe during pregnancy”. They also state, “Pregnancy is not a reason to delay root canals or filling cavities if they are needed because putting off treatment may lead to further complications. One potential benefit of improving a woman’s oral health: It may decrease the transmission of cavity-causing bacteria from mother to baby. This can help lessen the future risk of cavities in children.”
In August, the Oral Health Care During Pregnancy Advisory Committee (made up of representatives of ACOG, ADA, and other organizations) came up with a more comprehensive list of recommendations, including the following:
- Advise women that oral health care improves a woman’s general health through her lifespan and may also reduce the transmission of potentially caries-producing oral bacteria from mothers to their infants.
- Reassure patients that prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of oral conditions, including dental X-rays (with shielding of the abdomen and thyroid) and local anesthesia (lidocaine with or without epinephrine), are safe during pregnancy.
- Inform women that conditions that require immediate treatment, such as extractions, root canals, and restoration (amalgam or composite) of untreated caries, may be managed at any time during pregnancy. Delaying treatment may result in more complex problems.
- Reinforce routine oral health maintenance, such as limiting sugary foods and drinks, brushing twice a day with fluoridated toothpaste, flossing once daily, and dental visits twice a year.
The recommendation makes it clear not only that dental treatment during pregnancy is safe, but also that good oral health is important for both the mother and the developing baby.
Roseville Family Dentist