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Prenatal care

  • Prenatal care is the care you get while you’re pregnant.
  • Regular prenatal care helps keep you and baby healthy.
  • A doctor, midwife or other health provider gives this care.
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Dental health during pregnancy

Dental health is the health of your gums and teeth. It’s an important part of your overall health.

Some studies show a link between periodontitis (a gum disease) and premature birth (birth before 37 weeks of pregnancy) and low birthweight (less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces). Taking good care of your gums and teeth during pregnancy can help you and your baby be healthy.

How does pregnancy affect your dental health?

Pregnancy changes in your body can affect your gums and teeth. During pregnancy, you have more blood flowing through your body, more acid in your mouth and rising hormone levels. Hormones are chemicals made by the body.

These changes mean that you’re more likely to have some dental health problems during pregnancy than you did before you got pregnant. These problems include: 

  • Gingivitis. This is when you have red, swollen or sore gums. Your gums may bleed when you brush your teeth. High levels of the hormone progesterone can lead to gingivitis during pregnancy. Without treatment, gingivitis can become a serious gum disease called periodontitis.
  • Loose teeth. High levels of the hormones progesterone and estrogen during pregnancy can affect the tissues and bones that keep your teeth in place.This can make your teeth loose.
  • Periodontitis. This is a serious gum disease. It happens when there’s swelling and infection in the gums and bones that keep your teeth in place. This can make your teeth loose.
  • Pregnancy tumors. These tumors are not cancer. They are lumps that form on swollen gums, usually in between teeth. This can cause bleeding. The tumors may be caused by having too much plaque (sticky bacteria that forms on teeth). Pregnancy tumors usually go away on their own. But you may need to have them removed by surgery sometime after you give birth.
  • Tooth decay. This is when acids in your mouth break down a tooth’s enamel. Enamel is the hard, outer layer of a tooth. Because you have more acid in your mouth than usual during pregnancy, you’re more likely to have tooth decay. If you have morning sickness and throw up often, you have even more acid in your mouth.
  • Tooth loss. If you have serious tooth decay or gum disease, your teeth may fall out Or your dentist may need to remove your teeth.

What are signs and symptoms of dental health problems during pregnancy?

Signs and symptoms include:

  • Bad breath
  • Gums that hurt when they’re touched, or gums that bleed when you brush your teeth
  • Loose teeth
  • Mouth sores, lumps or other growths
  • Red or red-purple gums
  • Shiny, sore or swollen gums
  • Toothache or other pain

Call your dentist if you have any of these signs or symptoms.

How are dental health problems diagnosed during pregnancy?

You may notice a problem with your teeth or gums, or your dentist may find one during a regular dental checkup.

Get regular dental checkups before and during pregnancy. If you haven’t been to the dentist recently, see your dentist early in pregnancy. At your checkup, tell your dentist that you’re pregnant and about any prescription or over-the-counter medicines you take. If you’re not pregnant yet, tell your dentist you’re planning to get pregnant.

Dental checkups during pregnancy are important so that your dentist can find and treat dental problems. Regular teeth cleanings also help prevent tooth decay. If you have any problems, your dentist can recommend treatment during pregnancy or after you give birth.

If you have a dental problem, your dentist may take an X-ray. An X-ray is a medical test that uses radiation to make a picture of your body on film. Dental X-rays can show problems, like cavities, signs of plaque under your gums or bone loss in your mouth. Dental X-rays use very small amounts of radiation. But make sure your provider knows you’re pregnant and protects you with a lead apron and collar that wraps around your neck. This helps keep your body and your baby safe.

How are dental health problems treated during pregnancy?

The kind of dental treatment you get depends on the problem that you have, and how far along you are in your pregnancy.

You may just need a really good teeth cleaning from your dentist. Or you may need surgery in your mouth. Your dentist can safely treat many problems during pregnancy. But he may tell you it’s better to wait until after birth for some treatments.

Your dentist may avoid treating some problems in the first trimester of pregnancy because this is an important time in your baby’s growth and development. Your dentist also may suggest postponing some dental treatments during pregnancy if you’ve had a miscarriage in the past, or if you’re at higher risk of miscarriage than other women. Miscarriage is when a baby dies in the womb before 20 weeks of pregnancy.

How can you help prevent dental health problems?

Here’s how you can help keep your teeth and gums healthy:

  • Brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste and floss every day. Brush using a toothbrush with soft bristles twice a day. Floss once a day to clean in between your teeth. Regular brushing and flossing around the gum line can remove plaque and prevent periodontitis and tooth decay.
  • If morning sickness makes you feel too sick to brush your teeth, rinse your mouth with water or mouthwash. If you throw up, rinse your mouth with water to wash away the acid.
  • Visit your dentist for a regular dental checkup every 6 months, even during pregnancy. Eat healthy foods. They give you and your growing baby important nutrients. Your baby’s teeth start developing between 3 and 6 months of pregnancy. Nutrients, like calcium, protein and vitamins A, C and D, help your baby’s teeth grow healthy.
  • Limit sweets. Having too many sweet foods or drinks can lead to tooth decay. Instead of sweets, drink water and pick healthy foods like fruits, vegetables and dairy products.

Last reviewed January 2013

See also: Gums and teeth change , Teething, Your checkup before pregnancy, Your baby’s dental health

 

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is transabdominal ultrasound?

When you hear about ultrasound during pregnancy, it’s most likely a transabdominal ultrasound. This is a prenatal test that uses sound waves to show a picture of your baby in the uterus (womb). Your health care provider uses it to check your baby’s health. Most women get an ultrasound at 18 to 20 weeks of pregnancy.

During an ultrasound, your provider moves a plastic tool, called a transducer, across your belly. The transducer sends sound waves into your uterus. The waves bounce around to create a picture of your baby on a monitor. To get a better picture, your provider covers your belly with a thin layer of gel. This helps the sound waves move more easily.

Your provider measures your baby’s body throughout the test. Depending on your baby’s position, your provider may point out his hands, legs and other body parts. You should be able to tell if your baby’s a boy or a girl, so be sure to tell your provider if you don’t want to know!

You may need to have a full bladder during the test. This prevents pockets of air in your bladder from affecting the picture. Ultrasound is painless, but having a full bladder may be uncomfortable.

What is first trimester ultrasound?

First-trimester ultrasound (also called early ultrasound) is a prenatal test that uses sound waves to show a picture of your baby in the uterus (womb). Some providers may use this kind of ultrasound to make sure your baby’s organs are growing and developing normally.

Your health care provider uses it to check your baby’s health. A first-trimester ultrasound takes place before 14 weeks of pregnancy.

The kind of first-trimester ultrasound you have depends on the type of information your provider needs. Your provider usually does ultrasound by moving a plastic tool, called a transducer, across your belly. This is called transabdominal ultrasound. You also can have a transvaginal ultrasound, which means it’s done in the vagina (birth canal). Both kinds usually take about 15 to 20 minutes.

Your provider can use first-trimester ultrasound to:

See also: Ultrasound

What is 4-D ultrasound?

4-D ultrasound is a prenatal test that uses sound waves to show a three-dimensional picture of your baby in the uterus (womb) and shows your baby’s movement. 3-D images are almost as clear as a photograph, and 4-D is a moving-picture version or video. Some providers may use this kind of ultrasound to make sure your baby’s organs are growing and developing normally.

You may know of some places, like stores in a mall, that aren’t run by doctors or other medical professionals that offer “keepsake” 3-D or 4-D ultrasound pictures or videos for parents. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Food and Drug Administration and the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine do not recommend these non-medical ultrasounds. The people doing them may not have medical training and may give you wrong or even harmful information.

What is 3-D ultrasound?

3-D ultrasound is a prenatal test that uses sound waves to show a three-dimensional picture of your baby in the uterus (womb). Some providers may use this kind of ultrasound to make sure your baby’s organs are growing and developing normally.

The 3-D ultrasound is almost as clear as a photograph. A moving-picture version is called 4-D ultrasound.

You may know of some places, like stores in a mall, that aren’t run by doctors or other medical professionals that offer “keepsake” 3-D or 4-D ultrasound pictures or videos for parents. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Food and Drug Administration and the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine do not recommend these non-medical ultrasounds. The people doing them may not have medical training and may give you wrong or even harmful information.

See also: Ultrasound

What is Doppler ultrasound

Doppler ultrasound is a kind of prenatal test that can be used to check a baby’s health in high-risk pregnancies. Providers usually use Doppler ultrasound during the last trimester, but it may be done earlier.

During Doppler ultrasound, your provider uses a plastic tool called a transducer to measure the blood flow in the umbilical cord and some of your baby’s blood vessels. This test shows if your baby is getting enough oxygen. Your provider also can listen to your baby’s heartbeat using Doppler ultrasound.

Some providers use Doppler ultrasound to check mothers with Rh disease. This is a condition where a difference between the mother’s blood and baby’s blood can cause a dangerous kind of anemia in the baby. Anemia is when the body doesn’t have enough red blood cells or the red blood cells are too small. When the condition is found early and treated, most affected babies survive.

What is transvaginal ultrasound?

Transvaginal ultrasound is a prenatal test that uses sound waves to show a picture of your baby in the uterus (womb). Your health care provider uses transvaginal ultrasound to check your baby’s health. It’s often used for early ultrasound in the first trimester.

During the test, your provider moves a thin, wand-like transducer into the vagina. You lay on your back with your feet in stirrups during the exam. You may feel some pressure from the transducer, but it shouldn’t cause pain.

Transvaginal ultrasound can be used throughout pregnancy to check for problems with the cervix (opening to the uterus) and lower uterus.

See also: Ultrasound

How is blood pressure measured?

Blood pressure is the force of blood that pushes against the walls of your arteries. Arteries are blood vessels that carry blood away from your heart to other parts of the body. If the pressure in your arteries becomes too high, you have high blood pressure. High blood pressure is also called hypertension.

At each prenantal care visit, your health care provider checks your blood pressure. To do this, she wraps an inflatable cuff around your upper arm. She pumps air into the cuff to measure the pressure in your arteries when the heart contracts (gets tight) and then relaxes.

Your blood pressure reading is given as two numbers: the top (first) number is the pressure when your heart contracts and the bottom (second) number is the pressure when your heart relaxes. A healthy blood pressure is 110/80. High blood pressure happens when the top number is 140 or greater, or when the bottom number is 90 or greater

Your blood pressure can go up or down during the day. Your provider can re-check a high reading to find out if you have high blood pressure during pregnancy.

Last reviewed March 2012

See also: High blood pressure during pregnancy, Preeclampsia, HELLP syndrome

Can a rubella shot hurt my baby during pregnancy?

If you got your rubella shot around the time you got pregnant, it's unlikely that your baby will be harmed by the vaccine. However, it's best to wait to get pregnant for 28 days after vaccination because there is a very small risk of potentially hurting the baby. To date, there hasn't been any birth defects reported that are attributed to the rubella vaccine. In any case, the risk of harming your baby by getting the vaccine at the time you got pregnant is much lower than the risk of harming your baby if you caught rubella during pregnancy.

I couldn't see my baby at my 7 week ultrasound. Why?

At the 7th week of pregnancy, your baby is about ½ an inch long or the size of a blueberry. He's very small. When a transabdominal ultrasound (done on your belly) is done at such an early stage, it's possible that the baby can't be seen. It could be because it's too early in the pregnancy or because you conceived a little later than what you thought. Your health care provider might recommend a transvaginal ultrasound (done inside the vagina) to help see the baby more clearly.

What are choroid plexus cysts?

The choroid plexus is the area of the brain that produces the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. This is not an area of the brain that involves learning or thinking. Occasionally, one or more cysts can form in the choroid plexus. These cysts are made of blood vessels and tissue. They do not cause intellectual disabilities or learning problems. Using ultrasound, a health care provider can see these cysts in about 1 in 120 pregnancies at 15 to 20 weeks gestation. Most disappear during pregnancy or within several months after birth and are no risk to the baby. They aren't a problem by themselves. But if screening tests show other signs of risk, they may indicate a possible genetic defect. In this case, testing with higher-level ultrasound and/or amniocentesis may be recommended to confirm or rule out serious problems.

Have questions?

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