No one likes going to the dentist, but ending up in that chair when you’re pregnant presents unique challenges: Your back may hurt, your gums may be extra sensitive, every flavor of toothpaste or polish may make you queasy… you get the picture.

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But being pregnant isn’t an excuse to skip out on your 6-month cleanings. It’s important to maintain your dental hygiene, since not doing so can lead to bigger problems down the road.

But while it’s safe to get your teeth cleaned during pregnancy, what about other common procedures, like needing to have a tooth pulled? It’s not just the extraction itself — there’s anesthesia, X-rays, and pain meds to worry about, too.

So what’s the deal — can you get a tooth pulled during pregnancy? Yes, with a few caveats. Here’s what you need to know.


Why regular dental care is important during pregnancy

Regular dental care is important for everyone, but during pregnancy, you do have a higher risk of things like cavities and gingivitis.

Your changing hormones leave you susceptible to swelling and inflammation in your gums, and severe morning sickness can introduce abnormal bacteria to your mouth (or just make it super unpleasant to brush and floss every day because, hello, gag reflex).

These are minor issues, but if you don’t treat them they can become pretty big ones.

Since pregnancy lasts 9 months — and you’ll be too busy dealing with a newborn to get to your dentist right after birth — you could end up neglecting treatment for a year or more if you avoid the dentist just because you’re pregnant.

And in case you need another reason to sit yourself down in the dentist chair during pregnancy, the National Maternal and Child Oral Health Resource Center says you can actually give cavity-causing bacteria to your baby. Talk about a gag reflex!


Why major dental work is sometimes postponed until after delivery

We’ll be honest: Many non-OB-GYN health providers get anxious about treating you when you’re pregnant. Even if they’re experts in their own fields, they may not have a lot of experience with pregnancy, and nobody wants to put you and your baby at risk.

A 2010 study in Women’s Health Issues backs this up: The authors discovered that dentists’ attitudes about treating pregnant patients were shaping access to dental care.

That said, if dental work doesn’t need to happen during pregnancy, it’s usually better to put it off until after the baby is born, along with any other elective medical procedure (just to be on the safe side).


When you shouldn’t postpone a needed tooth extraction 

Sometimes there are slight risks to having medical procedures performed during pregnancy, but the benefits far outweigh them (or the risk of doing nothing at all is worse).

Your mouth isn’t Las Vegas: What happens there doesn’t necessarily stay there, and poor oral health can have an effect on other parts of your body, too. Plus, an untreated infection in your mouth can travel, making you seriously ill.

You should always go through with a tooth extraction, even during pregnancy, if:

You’re in severe pain that’s affecting your daily life.There’s a risk of infection.There’s risk of permanent damage to the teeth or gums.
Is it safe to have the tooth extracted?

Generally, yes — in fact, most dental procedures are safe during pregnancy, except for maybe whitening. This includes wisdom teeth extraction, though most dentists prefer to postpone this type of procedure out of an abundance of caution as long as the wisdom teeth aren’t causing complications.

Still, if your wisdom teeth — or any other teeth — meet the criteria we gave you above, they can and should come out during pregnancy.


Best trimester to have extraction done

The popular advice is that the second trimester is the best time for non-emergency dental procedures.

The first trimester is always a little iffy when it comes to safety (there’s just so much fetal development happening then), and it gets progressively more uncomfortable to lie still on your back for long periods of time during the third trimester.

If you have a dental emergency, however, it doesn’t matter what trimester you’re in: You need to get it handled.


Do tooth extractions require X-rays and are those safe?

Usually, you do need an X-ray before getting a tooth pulled — and while dental X-rays are usually postponed until after pregnancy (again, out of an abundance of caution), that doesn’t mean they’re unsafe.

A single X-ray doesn’t contain enough radiation to cause any harm to you or your baby during pregnancy. Plus, your dentist will outfit you with one of those medieval lead aprons, which acts as good protection against the already low exposure risk.

Because X-rays aren’t essential during routine dental checkups and cleanings, dentists usually skip them if you’re pregnant. But if you need one, you need one — and it’s definitely safe.


Is it safe to have anesthesia during your tooth extraction? 

Yes! Aren’t you surprised by how many of these things you’re allowed to do during pregnancy? (We bet you wish dental procedures weren’t on the list, so you’d have an excuse to delay them.)

But let’s back up a sec, because not all kinds of anesthesia are safe. Local anesthesia — which, as the name suggests, is injected via syringe into one part of your body — doesn’t travel through your bloodstream and is perfectly safe to use during a pregnancy-era dental procedure.

Some other kinds of anesthesia are OK, too, although some experts warn about the safety of undergoing sedation or general anesthesia during pregnancy (i.e., where you get knocked out, basically).

If you’re worried, talk with your dentist and your pregnancy-related health provider, whether that’s an OB-GYN or midwife. Collectively, you should be able to figure out what you can safely use during your procedure.


What’s safe in terms of post-extraction pain relief?

For the most part, acetaminophen (Tylenol) is your safest option. It’s the only over-the-counter pain reliever approved for use during all 9 months of pregnancy because it tends to be both effective and nonharmful to baby.

As for other options, it might be safe to use nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like ibuprofen, as pain relievers — but only during the first 30 weeks of pregnancy.

FYI: This is another situation we recommend talking with your dentist and OB-GYN or midwife about, so you can make a plan for effective pain relief post-extraction.


Are there risks associated with tooth extraction during pregnancy?

There are risks associated with any kind of medical procedure whether you’re pregnant or not — but the risks aren’t really any higher in this case.

In an emergency situation, the risks of surgery, X-rays, and anesthesia are lower than the risks of leaving a serious problem untreated.


Preventing dental issues

The best way to avoid having a tooth extracted at all, let alone during pregnancy, is to practice good oral hygiene. Brush twice a day, floss at least once, and don’t go to bed with dirty teeth — especially when late-night pregnancy cravings leave you eating Milky Way bars in the kitchen at 11 p.m.

Just as important as those habits is keeping up with twice yearly dental cleanings. If you’re maintaining your oral health throughout the year, you shouldn’t be surprised too much by anything during pregnancy.

Catching problems early also means you may be able to delay treatment until after the baby is born with easy interventions or schedule a procedure conveniently during the second trimester.


The takeaway

Getting a tooth pulled during pregnancy is probably going to suck, but technically it’s a safe procedure, as is everything that comes along with it — like X-rays and certain types of anesthesia.

It’s always ideal to postpone nonessential procedures until after the baby comes, but if it can’t wait, you can get it done with the assurance that your baby will be A-OK.

See more: Audiobook: Discovering Our Past A History Of The World, Discovering Our Past: A History Of The World

If you have any concerns at all about the procedure, schedule a chat with your OB-GYN or midwife.


Last medically reviewed on December 20, 2020


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Medically reviewed by Christine Frank, DDS — Written by Sarah Bradley on December 20, 2020

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