During pregnancy, you might be overwhelmed with the things that you need to accomplish. There is a lot to do to ready your home and things to stock up on for the new addition – not to mention the regular appointments and ultrasounds you have to keep track of with your regular doctor. One important aspect of pregnancy preparation and health that many women overlook is that of visiting the dentist. In fact, many women report not seeing a dentist during their pregnancy or even in the year prior.

Why is seeing the dentist during pregnancy important?

You might notice that your gums are already swollen during your pregnancy. That’s because increased hormonal levels can make your gums irritated, which can in turn trap food particles. In some cases, red and swollen gums can be an early sign of gum, or periodontal, disease. Some studies suggest that gum disease is associated with low birth weight and premature labor. Premature labor involves the delivery of a baby earlier than 37 weeks gestation, which can contribute to underdeveloped lungs and vision and hearing problems in infancy. Since gum disease can be hard to detect in the early stages and is easily mistaken as a hormone induced side effect of pregnancy, seeing a dentist for a check-up is imperative.

Additionally, the fact that you share almost everything with your unborn baby means that any bacteria or infection in your mouth can circulate through your bloodstream and into your baby’s body. Morning sickness also plays a role in your need to see a dentist during pregnancy – the acid from vomiting causes even more harm to your gums and can corrode your tooth enamel over time.

Which types of dental work are safe?

Be sure to tell your dentist that you are pregnant at your appointment. Routine cleanings and examinations are safe, but your dentist might choose to postpone routine X-rays until after your pregnancy. If you need cavity fillings or crowns, it is best to schedule those for your second trimester because it is difficult to lie on your back for long periods during your third trimester. Unnecessary dental work, including cosmetic procedures, can wait until after your pregnancy.

How can I take care of my teeth while pregnant?

Brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss every day. Avoid eating sugary foods between meals and when you don’t have access to a toothbrush. You should also avoid carbonated beverages and drink water as much as possible, which will flush out food particles and deliver benefits to your pregnancy in other ways as well.