Can You Have Your Teeth Whitened During Pregnancy?
Can You Have Your Teeth Whitened During Pregnancy?
Apparently, you’re supposed to get all glowy and gorgeous during pregnancy. But for many actual expectant humans (e.g., not the kind that only appears in movies and TV shows), being pregnant can make it look like you’ve been dragged through the mud instead.
The truth is, you do look beautiful — because you are. But you’re feeling puffy and bloated, your hair is greasy, and you think your skin is splotchier than a Jackson Pollock painting. This is when you think — at least you can brighten up your pearly whites, right? If your teeth are blindingly white, maybe no one will notice the other stuff!
Except… you can’t. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but for the most part, it’s not recommended that you whiten your teeth during pregnancy. Here’s why you should get your glow on another way while you’re expecting.
Is professional teeth whitening at the dentist safe?
In-office whitening procedures usually involve dental bleaching, which removes stubborn dental stains with a high concentration of hydrogen peroxide.
There are a few variations in the procedure. Still, either way, professional whitening means a chemical solution will be applied to your teeth and left on for a period of time before being removed. (You may need to go for several sessions to get maximum results.)
There isn’t any evidence that teeth whitening is dangerous for pregnant people, but there isn’t any evidence that it’s safe, either. The percentages of chemicals used in teeth whitening procedures are higher than we normally come into contact with.
Considering what we know about the risks of teeth whitening in general —even outside of pregnancy — most dentists suggest that you hold off on the procedure until after pregnancy to be on the safe side.
Possible risks for you and your baby
Pretty much everything carries a slightly higher-than-average risk during pregnancy, mostly because the pregnant body is more vulnerable to injury, illness, and infection. Things that usually only carry a mild risk of harm (like teeth whitening) can cause side effects more easily if you’re expecting.
Remember, teeth whitening has not been proven to be more dangerous. But theoretical risks include:
- Tissue damage. Pregnant people are more sensitive to developing gingivitis thanks to an increase in hormones. Pregnancy gingivitis often causes swelling and inflammation in your gums. Applying high concentrations of hydrogen peroxide to your already-inflamed gums and soft tissues is a recipe for discomfort and short-term damage.
- Tooth sensitivity. If you’ve ever used whitening products and wondered why your teeth got randomly sensitized to everything, it’s because high concentrations of hydrogen peroxide applied to the teeth can seep through the enamel and irritate the nerves of your teeth. Again, because everything is extra sensitive anyway during pregnancy for many reasons, these effects can be heightened (and super-duper uncomfortable).
- Unknown effects on the baby. We haven’t studied the effects of high amounts of hydrogen peroxide on a developing baby. They could be totally harmless, but we have no way of knowing. Since teeth whitening is an optional, cosmetic procedure, it’s better to play it safe than risk causing harm.
Are traditional at-home whitening kits safe?
The answer here is no as well, unfortunately. Just because you can buy something over the counter (OTC) doesn’t make it safe for use, especially during pregnancy.
These kits typically contain high levels of hydrogen peroxide and other chemicals, so the risk doesn’t decrease just because you picked it up at a pharmacy.
According to a 2014 review articleTrusted Source, although most OTC kits have lower amounts of hydrogen peroxide than the ones used by professional dentist offices, there’s a lot of potential for user error.
In that way, it’s actually safer to sign up for higher concentrations of chemicals applied by a dentist rather than lower concentrations applied on your own! (Though in pregnancy, it’s pretty much always a no-no.)
Are whitening toothpaste and mouthwashes safe?
Toothpaste, yes: Not all whitening toothpaste contain hydrogen peroxide, only extra scrubbing and cleansing ingredients. Even the ones with bleaching agents contain so little it doesn’t pose a risk — plus, you don’t leave them on your teeth for an extended period of time.
Mouthwashes, though, are a little more complicated. Some say mouthwash, in general, is safe to use during pregnancy. In contrast, others caution that you may want to skip it because most products contain alcohol unless it’s necessary for your individual oral health.
Even though you’re not drinking mouthwash, there could still be a risk after using it for 9 months. You can get around this by using a mouthwash product without alcohol, though.
There isn’t any answer either way about whether whitening mouthwash, specifically, is safe to use during pregnancy. We recommend asking your doctor or dentist for advice about using any mouthwash, a period when you’re expecting.
The other thing you can do to see brighter teeth is avoided certain foods and drinks that cause staining. Hopefully, you’re already abstaining from wine and tobacco, but cutting back on tomatoes, citrus foods, coffee, and black tea can help, too.
Common oral health issues in pregnancy
Your hormones can impact your oral health in several different, including:
- Gingivitis. We mentioned this already, but your extra blood flow during pregnancy causes soft tissue to swell and become inflamed, and that includes your gums. Your gums are also more irritated by plaque building up on your teeth.
- Excess bleeding. See above. Gingivitis can make your gums more prone to bleeding — so it can change your saliva production and increase plaque.
- Enamel erosion. Exposing your teeth to frequent contact with acidic foods and stomach acid can erode the protective layer of enamel on your teeth. If you have severe or prolonged morning sickness or ongoing acid reflux, all that acid exposure could damage your enamel during pregnancy. You can avoid some of this by rinsing with water after vomiting and waiting to brush your teeth not to brush off extra enamel.
- Cavities. An increase in cravings for foods with a lot of sugar (including simple carbs) can increase your risk for cavities during pregnancy. Consider little extra teeth brushing in your routine, at least after enjoying sweets.
- Pregnancy “tumours” in the mouth. This doesn’t sound good, but it totally isn’t! It’s not unusual for pregnant women to develop tiny, completely benign growths called pyogenic granulomas resulting from swelling. They may look like little red raspberries and should go away after delivery. Again, not cancer….just annoying.
Good oral hygiene and seeing your dentist during your pregnancy
Just like every other season of your life, it’s important to brush twice a day and floss once a day during pregnancy, as well as visit your dentist for regular cleanings. Maintaining a healthy oral hygiene routine can ward off some common dental problems — including yellowing.
Many dental procedures are considered safe during pregnancy: You can get a cavity filled, have a tooth pulled, and even have dental X-rays taken while pregnant if deemed necessary.
It may be wise, for your own comfort level, to delay unnecessary dental work until after your baby is born, but if you need to have a dental procedure done, there’s a good chance it’s safe to do so for your own health.
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