Congratulations! Now that you are expecting, a million things are probably on your mind. Should orthodontic treatment be one of them?
The answer to that is yes, and this answer might surprise you. If you’ve ever considered braces, while you’re pregnant might actually be one of the best times to get them.
Why is Now a Good Time?
It is easier to undergo orthodontic treatment before your extra time for appointments and care for your braces takes a backseat to the new baby in your life. If you start treatment in braces now, you will likely have them removed before your child is a toddler, which will be one of your more challenging phases of motherhood.
But let’s not forget about dads. The same timeline holds true for men who will help to raise an infant and eventually a child in his terrible twos. Though there’s never a wrong time to seek orthodontic treatment, now offers an ideal window to begin it.
Pregnancy and the Braces Diet
A high-protein diet has been shown to increase the production of breast milk. Not the popular diet that puts your body in a state of ketosis, but a hefty 70 to 100 grams protein each day. But some meat can be difficult to chew and is not advisable during your time in braces. You want to avoid meat products that you have to tear at with your teeth, like beef jerky or tough steak.
Other great ways to get braces-friendly protein are from eggs, chicken breast, pork tenderloin, cheese and yogurt. Fish can also be a great protein source, but while you’re pregnant you need to avoid any that might contain mercury, including swordfish and mackerel. If you’re a vegan or vegetarian, check out these ways to meal plan a high-protein diet.
And always avoid the following foods while you’re wearing braces:
- Crunchy foods such as pretzels, nuts, apples and carrot sticks
- Tough foods such as hard rolls and bagels, pizza crusts or steak
- Chewy foods such as taffy, gummy candy, or dried fruit
- Brittle foods such as chips, popcorn, seeds or candy with a shell coating
- Hard candy such as lollipops, mints, lemon drops or butterscotch
- Ice: You might be tempted to chew on ice to numb the pain if you are one of the women who experience swollen gums during pregnancy. Don’t! It could break your brackets.
Discuss Orthodontic Care with Your Doctors
It is perfectly safe to undergo or continue orthodontic treatment during pregnancy. However, you need to make sure you tell your orthodontist if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, as this may change some of the approaches to your care.
If you are pregnant and considering beginning orthodontic treatment, it is wise to have a conversation with your obstetrician beforehand. This is simply because all members of your medical team should be on the same page and aware of the care you are receiving.
How Does Being Pregnant Affect my Teeth?
You might be surprised to learn that being pregnant can significantly affect your dental profile. Even if you have not had a problem with your teeth before pregnancy, you might notice some changes or annoyances while you’re pregnant. For example, pregnancy causes some women to develop inflammation in the gums.
When you think of your body changing during pregnancy, probably the last thing you imagine are differences in your mouth. However, because pregnancy causes swelling, you may actually notice a dental phenomenon called pregnancy tumors. This is nothing dangerous or malignant. It is just temporary excessive swelling that occurs in between your teeth.
Hormones during pregnancy also can loosen teeth. This does not mean your teeth are at risk of falling out nor that they will wiggle permanently. Your teeth should anchor back just fine after the baby comes, but it’s very important for the orthodontist to consider the possibility of such changes when creating your treatment plan (which is another reason that it’s important to tell your orthodontist about your pregnancy right away).
Because of these minor complications, you might experience during your pregnancy, you may need to schedule appointments with your orthodontist slightly more frequently. The average patient needs to see the doctor close to every eight weeks, but you might need checkups closer to every five or six. Your orthodontist will determine this as your treatment progresses.
You may have concerns about the radiation produced by medical images of your teeth. It is always best to reduce or avoid exposure to even small amounts of radiation while you are pregnant. However, orthodontists have a protective device that is placed over your abdominal region to ensure that the developing baby is not exposed to any radiation from the imaging. The American Academy of Family Physicians reports that it is safe for an orthodontist to take digital images of your teeth during pregnancy.
We can’t stress enough the importance of maintaining proper oral hygiene during orthodontic treatment, but this is even more imperative if you are pregnant. Your orthodontist will teach you how to care for your braces in order to remove any bacteria or food particles, as well as keeping your gums healthy.
One of the unfortunate effects that many women suffer during early pregnancy is morning sickness. If you are vomiting, your teeth are exposed to acid powerful enough to destroy metal. This means it can certainly erode your teeth. If you experience vomiting during your pregnancy, you must immediately rinse and brush your teeth after the episode occurs.
If you are worried about taking medication during your pregnancy, the good news is that orthodontic treatment does not require you to take medicine of any kind. It is also rare that an orthodontist would need to perform a procedure under anesthesia, so you will not have to worry about its effects on the baby.
Will Braces be More Painful While I’m Pregnant?
Unfortunately, in some cases, pregnant patients might experience slightly more discomfort in braces than average. This results from the increased nerve sensitivity that pregnancy causes, as well as increased inflammation in the gums. This will not happen to everyone, but it is good to know upfront that it’s a possibility.
Many pregnant women worry about their appearance as their stomachs begin to expand. This also creates a significant amount of discomfort. Some women may shy away from orthodontics during pregnancy to avoid exacerbating concerns about appearance and pain.
If appearance is your chief concern, we recommend using Invisalign. This option uses a clear, plastic model of your teeth—similar to a retainer—that disguises your orthodontic treatment. You will need to have aligners updated as your treatment progresses, but this option reduces the visibility of your braces.