Congratulations! With your new bundle of joy on his or her way, you have a few things to do before the big arrival day. Did you include your dental hygiene on the list? Many times women will forget dental appointments during pregnancy. However, pregnant women need dental care now more than ever due to hormone changes in their body.

Hormones produced during pregnancy may cause swelling in the gum area. Swollen gums can trap food in between teeth resulting in dental concerns like gingivitis, gum disease, or tooth loss. Along with increased hormones, some women also have morning sickness. The stomach acid from throwing up can eat away tooth enamel on their teeth.

Use this guide to keep your pearly whites healthy during pregnancy.

Notify Your Dentist

Let your dentist know you are pregnant. This information will help your dentist make necessary precautions to ensure you and your baby’s safety. For example, procedures, such as x-rays, require special provisions for pregnant women.

Your dentist will also need to know any doctor recommendations you’ve received and what medications you’re taking. They can include this information in your dental treatment plan to avoid harmful substances that could affect your baby.

Don’t Skip Appointments

Some women may avoid the dentist while pregnant to reduce any possible health risks. However, you should seek out dental treatment now more than ever. You need regular gum exams to check your teeth are free from gum disease and/or gingivitis. Your gums will require particular attention as they are at an increased risk of infection. If you experience tenderness, bleeding, or swelling in your gums, talk with your dentist immediately.

You may want to avoid treatment in the first 12 weeks and the last 6 weeks of pregnancy as these are critical development times for your baby. However, you shouldn’t go the full nine months without an appointment.

As for treatments, you should only receive necessary dental work, such as tooth extraction or root canals. Unnecessary treatments include teeth whitening or cosmetic procedures. Although risks are minimal with elective treatments, you should try and limit risks to your developing baby.

Use X-rays with Caution

The American Dental Association has determined getting x-rays during pregnancy is safe as long as dentists use appropriate shielding. To lower the risk of harm to your baby, only get x-rays when necessary. Most routine x-rays aren’t required until after pregnancy. For emergency dental work, you can use shielding to minimize exposure.

Only Use Approved Medications  

Your dental treatment may require medications, anesthesia, or antibiotics. Always consult with your dentist and doctor about which medications you need. For instance, lidocaine is a drug you may want to consult with your doctor about. Studies are conflicted about the effects on fetuses from this medication because it does cross the placenta.

You may also need anesthesia during dental work. Your dentist should only use the minimum amount of dosages. You can always add more if you’re in pain. Stress from pain is also not safe for your baby. Talk with your dentist to find a happy medium.

Some dental treatments require antibiotics including penicillin, clindamycin, and amoxicillin. These antibiotics are determined as fairly safe during pregnancy. Keep in mind, not all antibiotics are safe. For example, tetracycline could affect your child’s teeth development. Your dentist can help you create a treatment plan that will protect your baby and your teeth.

Use this guide as a reference for dental work during your pregnancy. Always consult your dentist about precautions and procedures. Once you have a dental treatment plan in place, you can focus on getting ready for your precious new addition.