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So you're having a baby? Great!

Are your teeth at risk during your pregnancy?

The old myths that your teeth are drained of calcium during pregnancy, or that you'll loose a tooth, are just that - myths. These and other old wives' tales suggest a need to learn the facts about maintaining healthy teeth and gums during this time.

Your daily oral hygiene practice is very important in this regard. Because of changes in hormone levels, your gum tissues are more sensitive to the effects of plaque. This is the invisible , sticky layer of harmful bacteria that constantly forms on your teeth. With an increased sensitivity , there is also an increased possibility of gingivitis, an infection of the gums marked by redness, tenderness and frequent bleeding. Gingivitis reportedly occurs in 60 to 75 percent of all pregnant women.

If undetected, gingivitis can lead to more serious periodontal diseases. Some women may experience unhealthy gums during pregnancy. Fortunately for those women, once the hormone levels decrease after delivery, more healthy gum tissues should return.

Daily maintenance of the teeth through brushing and flossing, particularly at the gumline, helps keep plaque levels low and reduces the chance of infection.

If your teeth are plaque-free at pregnancy's onset and a good daily cleaning program is maintained, your chances of being troubled by gingivitis are greatly reduced.

What about the craving for things sweet and gooey?

The bacteria in plaque feeds on sugars and to produce damaging acids. This attacks tooth enamel and begins the decay process. With an increased desire for snacks or unusual foods during pregnancy, acid could be attacking your teeth all day long. Therefore, several measures need to be taken to fight decay.

In addition to increased brushing, even after every snack, reduce the number of snacks and avoid foods or beverages high in sugar. Select snacks such as nuts, cheese, raw vegetables, plain yogurt and popcorn. If you must indulge, sugary foods are best eaten at mealtimes followed by proper oral hygiene.

What types of dental procedures are considered safe during pregnancy?

An expectant mother is well advised to plan routine visits with her dentist during pregnancy. Monitoring of oral hygiene is a safeguard to prevent more serious conditions from occurring during a time when elective treatment may pose certain risks.

Most experts agree that essential procedures can be safely done at any time during pregnancy. These include fillings and crowns, extractions, gum treatment and continuation of orthodontic treatment. The counsel of your physician should be sought to insure that all health factors are considered prior to any decision in this area.

The first trimester is the most critical for the healthy development of your baby's organs. Other than a good plaque control program, no elective dental treatment, particularly surgery, should be conducted during this time. Only emergency care should be considered.

Routine dental care to control active disease or eliminate potential problems that could increase in severity later in the pregnancy, or immediately thereafter, should be scheduled for the second trimester. Pregnant women usually experience the greatest sense of well-being during this time.

Once past the middle of the third trimester, elective care should be deferred due to your increased physical discomfort. Prolonged chair time is best avoided, and routine dental visits should be short, in a semi-reclining or upright position, with ample opportunity to change position.

Are X-Rays necessary?

Although the amount of radiation is minimal, we suggest that routine X-rays be postponed until after delivery. However, should an emergency dental procedure become necessary, x-rays are needed for accurate diagnosis and treatment.

Our procedures insure the safety of both mother and fetus.

The use of protective lead apron, limiting the type of films taken and using high-speed film are routine in the case of a pregnant patient. With these precautions, an emergency x-ray will have no adverse effect on either mother or child.