Why do some women have to do dental X-rays while pregnant?
Some of you have probably heard that teeth and gums can be destroyed during pregnancy. Sometimes it can get to the worst: the teeth start falling out.
Yes, if you didn’t know, now you do. It is a complex problem, so some women are forced to do dental X-rays while pregnant.
You probably didn’t think that something as mundane as a dental x-ray would pose any danger to your unborn baby.
However, you need to know that there are some risks involved with this procedure if you’re pregnant and will be undergoing this procedure.
Whether it’s for general prevention or because you have a history of cavities or gum disease, dental x-rays are almost universally safe when taken in low doses. When pregnant, however, the risks can increase and pose more potential dangers than benefits.
Read on to learn more about the risks associated with dental x-rays while pregnant so you can make an informed decision before proceeding.
What is a Dental X-ray?
A dental x-ray is a photograph of the teeth and bones of your jaw.
An x-ray machine emits electromagnetic radiation that passes through your body and hits the teeth and bones, reflecting that radiation back through your body and onto film.
X-rays are used in various diagnostic procedures, from head and neck scans to broken bones. Since teeth and bones are dense tissues, they appear clearly on an x-ray image.
X-rays are also used to better look at cavities or when a dentist wants to see if any other oral issues haven’t been detected yet.
Why Are Dental X-rays Dangerous When Pregnant?
Dental x-rays emit a small amount of radiation, but radiation can pose a risk to your unborn baby and yourself when pregnant.
X-rays can damage DNA and affect the normal development of your baby. They are most dangerous for babies in the very early stages of development (the first 3 months of pregnancy).
This is when organs like the brain and heart are in the very early stages of forming. There are no studies specifically doing dental x-rays while pregnant, so the amount of risk is not entirely known.
Dental x-rays are thought to be safe when taken at low doses. That said, most dentists recommend that pregnant women avoid dental x-rays to be as safe as possible.
A board-certified radiologist Adam Evearitt says:
“Dental radiation has always been considered safer than other forms of medical radiation because it is directed to areas of the body that just aren’t radiosensitive.”
What are the Risks of Dental X-rays While Pregnant?
The risks of a dental x-ray while pregnant are not currently understood.
Dental X-rays while pregnant are routinely used even in the earliest stages of pregnancy, with little effect on the fetus. However, it is essential to note that the pregnant body differs from the non-pregnant body.
Dental x-rays expose you to ionizing radiation, which can break the hydrogen bonds in your DNA and damage the DNA. This could affect the normal development of your unborn child.
Another possible effect of dental x-rays on a fetus is that the radiation can cause an increase in free radicals.
Free radicals can damage tissue, and this damage is magnified in a fetus due to its smaller size and lower ability to repair. As the amount of radiation from dental x-rays is very low, most studies conclude that dental x-rays pose minimal risk to the fetus.
Recommendations for Dental X-rays for Pregnant Women
While there is little risk from a single X-ray exam, you must take safety measures to protect your unborn child.
1. Tell your dentist or X-ray technician if you are (or might be) pregnant.
2. Ask your dentist to use E or F-speed films for their X-rays. Compared to D-speed films, E and F films are more rapid and have low radiation doses while having equal advantages and near-identical expenses.
3. Wear a lead apron or guard. Even if the X-ray is not directed at your core, ask if you can wear a lead apron or equivalent protection. This will protect you from the probable risks to your reproductive organs even if you are not expectant.
4. Keep a precise record of your X-ray history. This includes the type of exam, date it was taken, referring doctor, and establishment where the X-ray is held. Notify your dentist or doctor to avoid repeating the process on the same body part.
5. Plan dental visits during the 2nd trimester. Significant fetal growth occurs in the 1st trimester and the 2nd half of the 3rd trimester. Restrict dental X-rays and therapy in the 2nd trimester to protect your baby.
6. Inform your dentist if you are undergoing radiation therapy. The radiation amount you are getting if you are under radiation therapy and the level of radiation exposure your baby received. You might want to seek assistance from a medical physicist about the schedule and type of radiation therapy.
7. Postpone non-emergency procedures until after the pregnancy. For dental crises like a dislodged tooth or gum damage, seek dental help instantly. Still, procedures like teeth whitening and specific orthodontic treatments can wait.
The best way to be safe during dental x-rays while pregnant is to follow your doctor’s advice.
If they recommend avoiding dental x-rays while pregnant, you should take them seriously.
When deciding on the best course of action, talk to your doctor about the potential risks of a dental x-ray, your history of dental issues, and the benefits of an x-ray.
Since there is no reliable data on the dangers of dental x-rays on pregnant women, it is always better to be safe than sorry. If you do have a dental x-ray done while pregnant, you should be aware of the potential effects and symptoms of radiation poisoning.
This includes nausea, vomiting, headache, fatigue, and difficulty breathing. I bet you already had nausea and vomiting during your pregnancy, so you probably don’t want it anymore.
If you discover that you need to have a dental x-ray, you can still ensure you are getting the safest treatment possible by asking your dentist these questions:
1. Are you certified to take dental x-rays on pregnant women?
2. How long have you been doing dental x-rays?
3. What safety precautions do you take?
If your dentist says you can proceed with the dental x-rays while pregnant, you can be confident in your decision. Be sure to share this information with your loved ones so they know the risks when they are pregnant and may need dental x-rays as well.
Also, make sure to ask your gynecologist all about that on your first prenatal visit.
Hello mamas and papas!
My name is Helen Heithoff, and I must say there’s nothing like the journey of being a mother.
It’s a beautiful thing when it all works out as planned, but if you need some tips, tricks, and hacks (yes, there are hacks for being a mom!), I have them for you here.