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Cavity Fillings While Pregnant, Yea or Nay?

es, it is safe to get a cavity filled while you're pregnant but you should take into consideration why you need the filling before you do it.


Old defective filling
Old defective filling

Here are some questions that you should ask yourself:

  • Is it causing you some type of discomfort?

  • Is it non-painful but it may cause you pain if you don't treat it?

  • Is it just a small cavity that has formed not too long ago?

Depending on what your answer is to the questions above, it may be more beneficial for you to do it promptly or it could also be better if you wait as well.


The cavity hurts while you're pregnant

If that cavity is bothering you in some way or form, you should get it filled promptly. You should not leave it be and suffer through discomfort for the entirety of your pregnancy.


It makes more sense to get it treated and so that you can at least eliminate dental problems from the back of your mind. That way you can focus all of your mental space on bringing your baby into the world.


For additional reassurance, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has a guideline for oral health care during pregnancy, which states that all needed dental treatments can be done at any point while pregnant. This includes cleanings, extractions, wisdom tooth extractions, root canals, and even dental fillings.


So there you have it, you have the blessing from the ACOG to proceed with your cavity filling appointment. The American Dental Association (ADA) agrees with the ACOG and they reference that very same guideline in their statement.


Conditions with symptomatic tooth decay

To give you more information, we'll describe a couple of scenarios where you may have a cavity that can bother you. These are all conditions, which you should consider having the cavity filled while you're pregnant.


Symptomatic conditions:

  • Chipped tooth. If there are rough or sharp edges, it can cut into your tongue or cheeks.

  • Missing filling. You may have been flossing or eating and the filling pops out.

  • Sensitivity. It feels sensitive whenever you drink something cold or eat something sweet.

  • Broken filling. It hurts when you chew on it because food gets jammed into the broken filling.


Broken discolored tooth
Broken discolored tooth

If that tooth is going to bother you, it is more than enough reason to have it treated.


Decayed tooth with potential future pain

You could be in a situation where the tooth with the cavity doesn't hurt at this moment. However your dentist is anticipating that it may start to bother you at some point during your pregnancy. If that is the case you may want to have it addressed sooner rather than later.


You don't want to wait until it starts to hurt you to have it treated. Having that spike in cortisol which is the stress hormone, is not good for your baby.


Situation where this may apply

The most common situation for this to happen is if you have a medium to large sized cavity. If you wait too long, the cavity may reach the nerve and then that just complicates the treatment.


Instead of a simple cavity filling, you may end up needing a root canal and a crown! That would NOT be beneficial for you because those treatments cost more and they are also more involved as well. It just complicates things overall.


This situation falls in line with the recommendation by the ACOG to have it treated because leaving it untreated will cause unnecessary complications.


Small cavity with no pain

Not all cavities will hurt you or at least they may not hurt you any time soon. This situation applies to very small cavities that have just formed. They're most likely located within the enamel layer of the tooth only, which is the outermost layer.


Tooth anatomy
Tooth anatomy

The enamel layer is the hardest layer and also the one which cavities attack first. It can actually take about months to maybe even a year for the cavity to move past this layer and into the next layer, the dentin.


If your cavity is small and located only in the enamel, it may not cause you any problems during your pregnancy at all. For a situation like this, we would classify as a procedure that can potentially wait. Since you're pregnant, you can even call it as "elective" if you like.


enamel decay
enamel decay

According to the ACOG's guideline for non-obstetric surgery during pregnancy, elective surgeries should be postponed till after delivery. However, if you were to have a procedure done the safest time would be the second trimester to do it.


Thus, if you were keen on having this cavity taken care of perhaps you can wait until the second trimester to take care of a very small cavity. However, if you're already in your third trimester, it may be better to just wait!


What a small cavity looks like on an x-ray


small in between cavities on x-ray
small in between cavities on x-ray

This picture is just to give you a comparison and an idea of the sizes of cavities on x-rays. You can compare what this looks like to the previous x-ray of a cavity that may cause you pain. The decay in this one is on the smaller premolar teeth and they are located in between where you floss. You can see two small black spots on the tooth. These black spots are significantly smaller than the previous x-ray.


Verdict

You can have a cavity filled at any point in time during the pregnancy and it is safe to do so. The ACOG and the ADA both recommend to take care of any dental issues which may cause complications during the pregnancy process.


However, you should also balance out the risks and benefits IF it is a small cavity and it is not hurting you. If it is a cavity that can potentially wait until the second trimester or even after pregnancy, you may do so.


Even though it may be safe to get the cavity filled and the risks are low, it is still better to not take any risk at all if you don't have to. Hopefully that sheds some light upon what you should do with your decayed tooth while you're pregnant.

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About the author: Dr David Chen, DDS

Hello, I'm Dr Chen and I'm an actively practicing dentist in Long Island City, NY. I graduated from Columbia University College of Dental Medicine in 2016 but prior to going to dental school I was already working in the dental field. It's been more than a decade since I first got to know dentistry and let me tell you, time flies by quickly. Since then I've developed a fondness for writing, which is how this all got started!

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Medical Disclaimer:

This blog is purely meant for information purposes and should not be used as medical advice. Each situation in your mouth is unique and complex. It is not possible to give advice nor diagnose any oral conditions based on text nor virtual consultations. The best thing to do is to go in person to see your dentist for an examination and consultation so that you can receive the best care possible.

The purpose of all of this oral health information is to encourage you to see your dentist and to inform you of what you may expect during your visit. Due to the unfortunate nature of dentistry, there isn't really any true home remedies that will get rid of dental problems. Roughly 99.99% of them require in-person intervention by a healthcare professional.

Hint: That is the reason why you can't eliminate seeing dentists in your life!

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