I’m Pregnant: Should I Undergo a Dental X-ray?

For years, undergoing a dental X-ray while pregnant was considered dangerous for an unborn baby. This resulted in large numbers of pregnant women with untreated gum infection and various oral diseases. Even today, the majority of pregnant women will refuse to take any X-rays until after the pregnancy.

We wanted to take the time to dispel the myth that X-rays are dangerous for pregnant women. In fact, we urge you to undergo an X-ray if it means diagnosing and treating oral diseases! Here are several reasons why avoiding an X-ray can be costly for pregnant women.

Pregnancy Increases Your Risk of Gum Infection

When you become pregnant, your hormones surge. This affects your body in various ways, but a lot of women don’t realize that it means your gums will swell. When gums swell, it is easier for food to get trapped between teeth and produce bacteria. Increased bacteria means an increased chance of gum infection.

Approximately 40 percent of pregnant women in the U.S. have some form of periodontal disease. What’s scary is that there have been multiple studies that show a correlation between gum infection during pregnancy and preterm birth and low birth weight babies. The bacteria from an untreated gum infection can enter the bloodstream and affect the fetus directly.

Undergoing a dental X-ray can help your dentist diagnose gum infection and immediately treat it before bacteria reaches your baby!

Dental X-rays Have Very Low Radiation Emissions

Radiation. It’s the reason everyone seems to be wary of X-rays. But the truth is, only extremely high levels of radiation exposure are dangerous. And X-rays simply do not produce high levels of radiation.

Fetal exposure to more than 10 rads (unit of measurement for radiation absorption) has been linked to mental retardation and eye abnormalities. However, even a whole series of X-rays can’t reach more than 5 rads. A single X-ray exposes your baby to just .01 millirads. Just to get a picture of how low that is, natural radiation from the earth and sun expose you and your baby to 90-100 millirads over the course of your entire pregnancy!

Safety Precautions for Dental X-rays

As with all medical procedures, there are safety precautions to take if you are pregnant and taking an X-ray:

  • Always tell your dentist that you are pregnant before the X-ray
  • Delay non-essential treatment until after the baby is born (i.e. cosmetic procedures like teeth whitening)
  • If an X-ray/treatment is necessary, avoid taking it during the 1st trimester or 2nd half of the third trimester
  • Always wear a lead apron and collar when taking an X-ray

For more information on taking X-rays while pregnant, visit us at Southwest Family Dentistry or call us at (386) 752-1220.

photo credit: dvanzuijlekom via photopin cc

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