Pregnant or planning to get pregnant? Here is what you need to know about your dental health.
Changes to expect with your teeth while you are pregnant
- Due to hormonal changes, you may develop “Pregnancy Gingivitis” where your gums may bleed more and appear more puffy. You may notice bleeding occasionally when brushing or flossing when that did not happen prior
What to do about it: Continue brushing 2x/day with a soft toothbrush or electric toothbrush moving in gentle circles along the gumline and all surfaces of the teeth. Floss at the end of each day being careful to wrap the floss along the teeth and not straight into the gums. Consult your dentist for instruction if you are not clear.
- If you suffer from acid reflux or vomiting you may develop more cavities or acid erosion that wears your teeth
What to do about it: Before brushing, rinse your mouth with water and/or listerine to neutralize your mouth. Drink water frequently to keep the acid off of your teeth. Consider using higher fluoride toothpaste (prescription strength from your dentist) to strengthen your tooth structure and make it more resistant to erosion.
- Changes in your diet or timing of meals/snacks may lead to more cavities
What to do about it: Be aware that eating more simple carbohydrates (crackers, chips, or my personal favorite, cookies), sugary foods (candy, juice, etc.) could lead to more cavities. If you eat late at night or more frequently throughout the day this could also lead to cavities. Make sure to continue to brush morning after breakfast and night before going to bed. Drink mostly water thoughout the day. Be mindful of what you eat.
Is dental treatment safe?
- It is best to treat cavities, oral infections and gum disease to minimize risk to you and your baby. Inflammation puts strain on you and your baby. Gum disease is linked to cardiovascular problems. Abscesses could spread to different areas of your body and lead to a medical emergency.
- Local Anesthetics (with or without Epinephrine) is safe.
- NO Laughing Gas AKA Nitrous Oxide- This has been linked to risk to your growing baby. It is safe during labor though (I did this with my son!)
- Antibiotics are safe if you develop a tooth related infection. The types of pain medications recommended are dependent on your health so your doctor may be consulted.
- Radiographs are safe with lead protection over the belly and thyroid. Most dentists will do routine radiographs based on risk of getting cavities. If there is an infection or treatment is needed, a radiograph is likely going to be needed in order to perform the procedure safely.
What to know about Medicaid in North Carolina
Many women will find that once they are pregnant they may qualify for Medicaid if they are lower income. Medicaid fully covers preventative dental work (x-rays, cleanings, exams) as well as fillings, root canals on front teeth, removing teeth and making dentures. They will not cover root canals of back teeth, crowns/caps, implants, orthodontics/braces or certain types of dentures. Absolutely take advantage of this and get seen as soon as possible in your pregnancy so you can get treatment and have healthy gums and teeth! Make sure your dental provider accepts Medicaid prior to scheduling.
For more information visit these sites below or feel free to contact me, Dr. Holman at Dr.Holman@HolmanFDC.com
You’re right! Dentists typically have a D.D.S. or a D.M.D. (completely equivalent degrees, just depends on the school). My training was unique in that I also decided to do a Ph.D.
I started doing scientific research in high school. I have always been a hands on learner, so it was fun for me to be learning from a book but also applying that knowledge and critically thinking about it in the research setting. My project from high school resulted in my first co-authorship in a peer-reviewed journal! I continued to work in different labs throughout college for the same reason. I enjoyed the whole process of learning different research techniques, figuring out what we know about a topic and what we need to learn and then figuring out a way to find the answer.
My last year in college I did a thesis project looking at the shape of carnivore teeth and the link to their diet. This information could help us learn about diet of extinct species based on their shapes of their teeth. I took impressions of jaws from the Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh and from the collection at Duke. My project was later published along with the supervising Ph.D. student I was working under. I also was able to present my work twice during a poster session at Duke.
My dream had always been to be a dentist. I envisioned myself working a long career then in my retirement working at a school and teaching and being involved with research projects. When University of Maryland approached me about their dual degree D.D.S. and Ph.D. program my eyes lit up! I started to explore the idea of who I would work with and got connected to Dr. Rebecca German at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine who had a background similar to mine in Biological Anthropology but did research that was very clinically translatable studying swallowing physiology. I decided to enroll in the program. I completed 2 years of dental school, then focused on my Ph.D. work for 3 years until I defended and after my defense I returned to dental school to complete my 2 clinical years. It was an amazing experience!
My research was about understanding the role of oral sensory information during suckling in infants. By giving local anesthetic to numb oral sensory areas, we were able to understand how this information helps signal the coordination of the suck, swallow and respiratory cycles. I was able to be published as a first author in the Journal of Veterinary Dentistry, Journal of Physiology and Dysphagia. I presented my research at national and international meetings and was recognized with a grant to fund my graduate work.
While I am not actively involved in research at the moment, my training has allowed me to confidently be able to evaluate scientific literature and to make evidence based treatment decisions. I am always striving to learn more through continuing education and always go to primary research when evaluating new products or materials. I use my research training on a daily basis and I believe it has made me a strong clinician as well.