Are Dental X-Rays Safe During Pregnancy?

When you are pregnant, one of the things at the top of your mind is how everything could affect your growing baby.  You are constantly asking yourself, “Is this safe?”  You should avoid lunch meat and caffeine, but what else should you avoid?

When it comes to dental care, the answer is not a simple black and white one.  In some cases, pregnant women should avoid dental x-rays, and in others, the x-rays are important.

We will explain the generalities of this, but we want to make sure you understand that our primary concern is the health of you and your baby.  There are times when dental work is necessary to ensure that health.

Should Pregnant Women Avoid the Dentist Altogether?

Great question!  With all the appointments you already have as a pregnant woman, it can seem simpler to just avoid the dentist altogether.  Here’s why that is NOT a good idea.

Pregnant patients often suffer from a condition called hormone-induced gingivitis, or pregnancy gingivitis.  This condition causes severe inflammation of the gums, leading to red, puffy, sore, bleeding gums.  The underlying cause is dental plaque, and the condition causes your gums to become hypersensitive.  This means that even the smallest amount of plaque on the teeth can make the gums flare up.

Most pregnant patients actually need to have professional teeth cleanings more frequently, than those who are not pregnant.  Seeing your dental hygienist for cleanings more often helps keep the gums in good health.

When Are Dental X-Rays Essential?

Dental x-rays are necessary when a pregnant patient suffers from a toothache or an impending tooth infection.  This is because there is greater potential for harm to the baby by a spreading infection than by the minimal radiation of a dental x-ray.

When you do require dental x-rays during pregnancy, your dentist will use a protective lead apron that covers everything from your neck down over your baby bump.  These lead aprons prevent any radiation from penetrating those areas of the body.  Our digital x-ray technology also uses far lower levels of radiation than traditional film x-rays of the past did, so the safety of dental x-rays is improving continually.

When Should I Avoid Dental X-rays?

When you have a great relationship with your dentist, seeing him consistently with regularly scheduled professional teeth cleanings, your risk for a dangerous tooth infection is low.  For that reason, it is usually safe for you to avoid dental x-rays for the nine month period of pregnancy.  If your check-up appointment falls during your pregnancy, we will evaluate your oral health with a clinical examination and perform a professional teeth cleaning to keep your gums healthy.  We will postpone any dental x-rays until a time when you are no longer pregnant.

What Does My Ob/Gyn Say about Dental X-rays?

When there is a question about the need or safety of dental x-rays, Dr. Chowning will consult with your specific obstetrician.  The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists released a statement in 2015 reaffirming their approval of the use of dental x-rays with a lead apron for pregnant patients.  The ACOG’s Committee on Health Care for Underserved Women stated: “Patients often need reassurance that prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of oral conditions, including dental X-rays (with shielding of the abdomen and thyroid) … [is] safe during pregnancy.”

Again, the most important factor in the decision of whether or not to take dental x-rays is protecting the health of you and your baby.  When the risk of a potential dental problem is higher than the risk of dental x-rays, we will tell you so.

More Questions about Dental X-Rays and Pregnancy?

Call Timberlake Dental at 940-382-1750 today to schedule a consultation with Dr. Chowning.  He can answer any specific questions you may have about your oral health and the need for any dental treatment during your pregnancy.

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