the Australian Dental Association
Written by the Australian Dental Association, Sep 08, 2022
Fact Checked

Thinking about having a baby? Women (and couples) planning to have a baby are recommended to ensure that they focus on their health. This includes their dental health. Make sure you visit your dentist to ensure that your teeth and gums are healthy. If you need any dental treatment, it is best to have it done in a timely manner. 

This can help you to avoid problems during pregnancy and give you peace of mind during this exciting phase of your life.

Have you ever heard the saying “You lose a tooth for every baby?"
This is a myth!
Having a dental check-up before becoming pregnant and keeping good oral hygiene and a low sugar diet during pregnancy can help to prevent dental problems.

Is going to the dentist safe during pregnancy?

It is safe to have dental treatment during pregnancy. It is important that you always tell your dentist if you are pregnant, even if you have not told anyone else. This is for you and your baby to get safe care. Your dentist can not tell this information to anyone else.

Untreated tooth decay and gum disease can lead to infections. Infections in the mouth can be severe. They can be a risk to you and your unborn baby. 

Common concerns include the safety of local anaesthetic and dental x-rays. It is natural to be concerned about medical treatment that may affect your unborn baby. Talk to your dentist about your concerns. They will be able to offer you options that are safe during pregnancy. 

Local anaesthetic injections are used to make the teeth and gums numb for dental treatment. They are safe to have during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Dental treatment should not be avoided for this reason.

Dental x-rays are often needed to help the dentist provide you with safe, high-quality care. These x-rays can be taken during pregnancy. This is the advice from the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency. For some x-rays, you may be asked to wear a lead apron while the x-ray is taken. This apron is placed over the chest and stomach. 

When is the best time to see a dentist?

You can see the dentist at any stage of your pregnancy. Some women find it is most comfortable during the second trimester. This is the third, fourth and fifth months of pregnancy. Morning sickness, nausea and mouth sensitivity are more common in the first trimester. But they have usually settled by the second trimester. During the third trimester, the increased size of the baby may make laying back in a dental chair uncomfortable. 
 

Effects of pregnancy on the mouth

Pregnancy does not cause poor mouth health and damage to teeth. But changes in lifestyle, habits and body processes may increase your risk of dental problems during pregnancy. 

Food cravings 

Craving sweeter foods and drinks is common during pregnancy. But having too many sugary foods and drinks may increase your risk of developing tooth decay. Try to snack on low sugar foods such as fresh fruit, cheese, crackers, or plain yoghurt. When you eat sugary snacks or drinks, rinse your mouth with water after. Rinsing your mouth with tap water is best because it contains fluoride which protects teeth. 
Snacking or grazing frequently during the day can increase your risk of tooth decay. Try to have your sweet treat with main meals instead of between these meals. 
 

Gum disease

Healthy gums do not bleed. Gingivitis is a common type of gum disease. It is the body’s reaction to the bacteria that builds up on the teeth. The gums become inflamed and may be red, swollen and bleed easily. During pregnancy, changes in hormones can make the gums more sensitive to the bacteria in the mouth. This can make it easier for the gums to become more inflamed when the bacteria are not brushed away. Brush twice per day and clean between your teeth (with floss or other tools) every day helps to remove the bacteria from between the teeth and around the gums. If you are caring for your teeth and gums well but your gums continue to bleed, check with your dentist. 
Severe gum disease, called periodontitis, can also impact your pregnancy. Periodontitis during pregnancy is associated with pre-term births, low birth weight babies and pre-eclampsia.
 

Vomiting and reflux

Vomiting and reflux are common during pregnancy. These actions can cause stomach acids to come up into the mouth. These acids are very strong and can damage the teeth. If the stomach acid covers the teeth too often, it can cause the surface of the teeth to wear away. This is called dental erosion or tooth erosion. 
Below are some tips to protect your teeth if you are experiencing vomiting or reflux.

  • Do not brush your teeth straight after vomiting or reflux.
  • Wait one hour before brushing your teeth.
  • While waiting to brush, have a drink of water, rub some toothpaste on your teeth using your finger or rinse your mouth with an alcohol-free mouthwash. It is safe to leave the toothpaste on the teeth as this will help to protect them for longer.
  • If you are out and about, chewing sugar-free gum is an option. This can help to increase your saliva production to help rinse the acids from the mouth.

 

Gagging while brushing your teeth

The back of your mouth may be sensitive to touch. This may make you gag when brushing your teeth. This can make it more difficult to clean your teeth, but it is important that you do not stop cleaning them. 
Here are some tips if you are having trouble with gagging.

  • Try using a toothbrush with a smaller head. You may even want to use a small children’s toothbrush.
  • Focus on brushing your teeth. Close your eyes, breathe slowly through your nose, and use a very gentle, tooth brushing technique.
  • If you set your gag reflex off, stop, and wait a little before finishing brushing. 
  • Wait to brush your teeth later in the morning if your morning sickness settles or subsides. 
     
Soft tissue changes

It is not uncommon to get lumps and bumps in your mouth during pregnancy. It is important to speak to your dentist if you notice any changes in your mouth. 

One example is a pyogenic granuloma. This is also called a pregnancy tumour. It is a red, lumpy growth that can develop in the mouth during pregnancy. 

A pregnancy tumour on the top surface of the tongue.
Image courtesy of Dr Amanda Phoon Nguyen.

Can I whiten my teeth while I am pregnant?

Teeth whitening treatment is not recommended for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. There isn’t any evidence that teeth whitening is dangerous for pregnant women, but there also isn’t any evidence that it is safe. Therefore, it is best to avoid it.
 
If you are thinking about using a whitening toothpaste during pregnancy or breastfeeding, it is best to get advice from your doctor or dentist first.

Listen to Watch Your Mouth

Listen to episode one of the Australian Dental Association’s oral health education podcast, Watch Your Mouth.

This episode discusses pregnancy and oral health. Watch Your Mouth is available on both Apple Podcasts and Spotify. 

Summary

A general dental check-up is recommended for women who are considering becoming pregnant. However, dental treatment is still safe during pregnancy. Pregnancy can impact oral health due to changes in hormones and eating habits as well as morning sickness and reflux can increase the risk of tooth erosion.