Dental care doesn't stop just because you're pregnant. In fact, it's even more important to keep your oral health in check: when pregnant, you're at higher risk of developing tooth decay, gum disease and other issues.

Unfortunately, there's still a widespread belief that visiting the dentist while pregnant can be harmful to you or your baby. A recent study by the Australian Dental Association revealed that more than half of Australian women surveyed (53.7%) shared this mistaken belief.1 This can be a serious problem if it means you avoid seeing your dentist and aren’t getting the care you need.

Pregnant women staying fit

Can I go to the dentist while pregnant?

Not only can you go to the dentist during pregnancy – you should! Leaving tooth decay, gum disease and other oral health problems untreated can be harmful. Your dental health has a big impact on your overall health, which means it can have a big influence on your baby too.

Even when you're not pregnant, we advise making regular trips to the dentist. For many people, a check-up every six months is best, but your circumstances may dictate how frequently you should go. So it's especially important when you're dealing with hormone changes and cravings that can put your oral health at greater risk.

Your dentist will often recommend making several appointments during your pregnancy so they can check the condition of your teeth and gums, recommend adjustments to your oral care routine or carry out any treatments needed.

If you're planning to get pregnant soon, it's a good idea to visit your dentist and get any outstanding dental issues such as impacted wisdom teeth taken care of first, to reduce the risk of complications.

Are x-rays safe?

One of the most common concerns people have about visiting the dentist while pregnant is being exposed to radiation from x-rays.

However, modern dental x-rays use very low doses of radiation and a single dose is not usually high enough to cause any adverse effects in the development of the foetus. Your dentist will also make sure your baby is shielded from the radiation by using a lead apron and thyroid guard.

Although x-rays are safe, your dentist may still recommend avoiding them during the first trimester if you're only having a routine check-up. But if you have a dental emergency or a severe, non-specific pain, x-rays could still be needed to help your dentist plan your treatment effectively.

Can I have anaesthetic?

If you need to have a dental procedure while pregnant, anaesthetic can still be used safely to help you relax and numb the pain. It's essential that you inform your dentist about your pregnancy so they can choose suitable anaesthetics and set appropriate levels.

Anaesthetics containing felypressin should be avoided during pregnancy because this chemical constricts the blood vessels – just ask your dental practitioner if you have any questions or concerns about the type of anaesthetic they’re using.

Your dentist will use the lowest concentration of anaesthesia possible for the type of procedure being carried out but still enough to help you feel relaxed. When you feel comfortable, your body and your baby will be placed under less stress.

Can I get a tooth pulled when pregnant?

Extractions are a last resort for dentists, who will always try to save your tooth if possible. But if your tooth is too badly damaged by decay or injury to be repaired, it could put your oral health at risk and should be removed.

Extractions can be performed any time during pregnancy, but your dentist may recommend the second trimester as the ideal time. This helps you avoid having x-rays in the first trimester when your baby is first developing, as well as the discomfort of having to lie on your back for prolonged periods during the third trimester.

Does a root canal affect pregnancy?

If tooth decay reaches the inside of your tooth where the nerve endings are, this can be extremely painful. Root canal treatment can stop the pain by removing the infected tissue and restoring the tooth with a natural-looking crown, so the tooth would not need to be extracted.

If you have a dental emergency, a root canal can be performed at any stage of pregnancy and shouldn't be delayed. However, because x-rays are involved, the ideal time for dental surgery is during the second trimester.

Can I whiten my teeth while pregnant?

Teeth whitening can be performed while you're pregnant, but your dentist may recommend waiting until after the birth for most non-emergency dental treatments.

Teeth whitening and other cosmetic treatments should ideally be avoided during the third trimester in particular, as you may find it uncomfortable to lie still while the whitening gel is applied and cured.

If you're using a home teeth whitening kit, you should make sure that you check that the concentration of hydrogen peroxide is no more than six percent. Higher concentrations can potentially cause tissue damage unless applied by a professional.

Can I have orthodontic treatment while pregnant?

If you are already undergoing orthodontic treatment, you shouldn't stop just because you are pregnant. You can even have new braces fitted during your pregnancy, although your dentist or orthodontist may recommend that you wait until after the birth, as there can sometimes be complications.

Getting braces requires x-rays, which your dentist might want to avoid during the first trimester. If your face and mouth change shape when you gain weight during your pregnancy, this could mean that your braces need to be adjusted or that new impressions need to be made of your teeth to create a new set of aligners. These changes can increase the overall cost.

Some women experience swelling of the gums and other facial tissues during pregnancy, which can sometimes cause irritation from brace wires and brackets. Your dentist or orthodontist can provide safe gels to help numb the pain, or you may prefer removable plastic aligners if you only need to fix a minor orthodontic issue.

How can I avoid dental treatments?

If you already follow a good oral hygiene routine, it’s less likely you’ll need to correct dental problems during your pregnancy. As well as regular brushing and flossing, you should try to avoid acting on unhealthy cravings and make sure you keep up with your regular dental check-ups.

You should also avoid brushing your teeth straight after morning sickness, as this can damage the enamel surface of your teeth. Instead, rinse your mouth with water and brush after waiting 30 minutes.

1 Australian Dental Association. Dental Health Week - pregnant women urged to look after oral health. [Online] 2016 [Accessed May 2017] Available from: www.ada.org.au