Dental X-Rays Teeth Cleanings Safe During Pregnancy


Oral health is a critical component of overall well-being that should be diligently maintained during pregnancy and throughout a woman’s life. Maintaining good oral health has been linked to positive effects on cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and other health disorders. However, alarming statistics reveal that a significant number of U.S. women, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, face barriers to accessing dental care. This article, endorsed by the Committee on Health Care for Underserved Women and reviewed by the Oral Health Care During Pregnancy Advisory Committee, emphasizes the importance of oral health during pregnancy and provides evidence-based recommendations to enhance women’s oral care and overall health.

The correlation between oral health and general well-being cannot be underestimated. The 2000 Surgeon General’s report, “Oral Health in America,” drew attention to the “silent epidemic” of oral diseases that disproportionately affect vulnerable populations, including the poor and racial/ethnic minority groups. The World Health Organization Global Oral Health Programme highlights the interrelation between oral health and quality of life. Therefore, promoting good oral hygiene practices and ensuring access to dental care are essential components of comprehensive healthcare.

Oral Health and General Health

Oral health disorders, such as periodontitis, have been linked to various disease processes, including cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, respiratory infections, and osteoporosis of the oral cavity. As these diseases significantly impact women across their lifespan, effective prevention and treatment strategies are vital to promoting overall well-being.

Addressing Pregnancy-Related Oral Health

Pregnancy introduces physiological changes that may manifest in the oral cavity, such as pregnancy gingivitis, benign oral gingival lesions, tooth mobility, tooth erosion, dental caries, and periodontitis. It is essential to educate pregnant women about these changes and reinforce good oral health habits to ensure the well-being of both the mother and her developing baby.

Periodontal Disease and Pregnancy Outcomes

Approximately 40% of pregnant women experience some form of periodontal disease, with higher prevalence among African American women, cigarette smokers, and users of public assistance programs. Studies have explored potential associations between maternal periodontal disease and adverse pregnancy outcomes like preterm birth. While results have been mixed, it is crucial to continue research in this area. Nevertheless, treating maternal periodontal disease during pregnancy is not associated with any adverse maternal or birth outcomes and can improve maternal oral health.

Promoting Oral Health During Pregnancy

Pregnancy serves as a “teachable moment” when women are more motivated to adopt healthy behaviors. Healthcare providers, including dental and obstetric teams, play a crucial role in promoting oral health care during pregnancy. Prenatal counseling has been shown to be effective in encouraging dental visits and maintaining oral health among pregnant women.

Access to Dental Care

The burden of oral disease is particularly high among disadvantaged and low-income populations. Many underserved individuals face barriers to dental care, such as lack of education, transportation, and dental providers, as well as higher rates of tobacco, alcohol, and drug use. Obstetricians need to be aware of their patients’ health coverage for dental services during pregnancy and should advocate for broader oral health coverage for women.


Regular dental care is essential for both oral and general health. While evidence regarding the direct impact of prenatal oral health care on pregnancy outcomes remains inconclusive, ample evidence supports the safety and benefits of oral health care during pregnancy. Improving maternal oral health may also reduce the transmission of cariogenic bacteria to infants, thereby reducing the risk of childhood caries. Obstetrician-gynecologists, being the primary healthcare providers for many women, possess a unique opportunity to educate women about the significance of dental care and oral hygiene throughout their lives, including pregnancy.


To promote women’s oral health during pregnancy and beyond, healthcare providers should:

  • Discuss oral health with all patients, including those who are pregnant or in the postpartum period.
  • Advise women that oral health care contributes to better general health across their lifespan and may reduce the transmission of caries-producing bacteria from mother to child.
  • Conduct an oral health assessment during the first prenatal visit.
  • Reassure patients that preventive, diagnostic, and treatment procedures, including dental X-rays and local anesthesia, are safe during pregnancy.
  • Inform women that immediate treatment for dental conditions is possible during pregnancy to prevent complex problems.
  • Address barriers to accessing dental care, including financial constraints and lack of awareness about the safety of dental care during pregnancy.
  • Develop collaborative relationships with local dentists to facilitate timely referrals for oral health care.
  • Advocate for expanded oral health coverage for women before, during, and after pregnancy.
  • Reinforce the importance of routine oral health maintenance, including limiting sugary foods, brushing with fluoridated toothpaste twice a day, daily flossing, and biannual dental visits.

By implementing these recommendations, healthcare providers can empower women to prioritize their oral health, leading to improved overall health and well-being for both mothers and their children.


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