Abscess Tooth While Pregnant - What to do

There are a lot of limitations and restrictions for what you can and can't do while pregnant but what is the consensus on a tooth abscess? Is it safe to get treatment for an abscess tooth? Should you even be going to the dentist at all?


What would happen if you left the dental abscess alone and waited until after you gave birth? Surely there are alternative home remedies that can help with the tooth infection, right?


This article will examine and answer all of those questions which you may have regarding dental abscesses while pregnant.



Table of Contents:



Is it safe to get dental treatment for a tooth abscess while pregnant?

According to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) it is perfectly safe to see the dentist and receive care. As a matter of fact, their guidelines state that all healthcare providers should recommend to their pregnant patients to get a dental check up as a part of their first prenatal visit. That is if it has been more than six months since their last dental visit.


The ACOG also state that it is safe to receive x-rays with proper shielding and local anesthesia (with or without epinephrine) while pregnant.

  • X-rays. For proper shielding of x-rays, the thyroid should be covered as well as the abdomen. The recommendation is usually to double shield if x-rays need to be taken.

  • Local anesthesia. If you need a dental procedure done, you may need some local anesthesia. It is safe to get numb while you are pregnant. The anesthetic may or may not contain epinephrine, both variations are safe.


The ACOG also listed a couple of procedures, which are okay to treat as examples:

  • Tooth extractions

  • Root canals

  • Restorations such as composite fillings, amalgam fillings, crowns, and etc.

  • Periodontal treatment


They basically said that all untreated tooth decay can be managed at any point in time during pregnancy. There was no restriction on which trimester it was safe for dental treatment.


Therefore, if you have an abscess tooth, you may get it treated at any time while you're pregnant since tooth extractions and root canals are the primary treatment for it. They are both on the acceptable dental procedure list.




What are the consequences if you don't get treatment?

The main consequences of not treating a tooth abscess while pregnant are suffering for the mother and possible developmental consequences on the child.

  • Maternal suffering. An untreated dental infection will cause constant inflammation and pain for the mother. Holding off on treatment will result in the mother having to endure dental pain for the entirety of the pregnancy.

  • Developmental consequences on fetus. Persistent maternal suffering will elevate hormones linked to stress. Subjecting the fetus to a constant barrage of stress hormones cannot be healthy for it. There are possible developmental consequences.


Possible developmental consequences:

  • Aberrations in neurodevelopment

  • Neurocognitive functions

  • Cerebral processing

  • Functional and structural brain connectivity (involves amygdalae and (pre)frontal cortex)

  • Changes in hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal (HPA)-axis

  • Changes in autonomous nervous system.

These are all possible consequences but there has not been any concrete studies which definitively show the results.



Periodontal therapy and its effect on preterm birth and low birth weight

Recently there has been mentions about how periodontal treatment may help with preterm birth and low birth weight. However, multiples have shown that to be false. Receiving periodontal treatment such as teeth cleanings and deep cleanings had no bearing on either of them.

  • This study which was a meta analysis found that the effects were statistically insignificant.

  • This study found that treatment of periodontitis did help improve their periodontal health but had no effect on preterm birth and low birth weight. It was safe to receive treatment during pregnancy.


severe lingual tartar

Therefore, all expecting mothers who are concerned about their gum health affecting their yet to be born child should be relieved that there is no correlation. Nonetheless, they should still have their gingivitis and periodontitis treated since it is safe to do so.


There is absolutely no need to let that unhealthy and un-cosmetic tartar remain on your teeth. Go get it removed, your gums will thank you and you'll feel better.




Home remedies for abscess teeth while pregnant

To be clear, home remedies do not treat the source of an abscessed tooth because that requires a tooth extraction or a root canal. The most that it can offer is temporary pain relief from the dental infection. This means that it is not a permanent cure or fix.


Nonetheless, here are some common home remedies which you may try to relieve pain stemming from a tooth abscess:


Orajel

A common over the counter medication to numb tooth pain is Orajel. It may work for numbing gum pain but it is actually not really recommended for use while pregnant. To be clear, it can be used but only if the benefits outweigh the risks since it is a category C pregnancy drug.


How to use:

  1. Use a cotton tip to scoop out some orajel.

  2. Apply the orajel to affected tooth for 2-3 minutes.

  3. Rinse out your mouth thoroughly after 10 minutes.


Salt water rinse

Using a salt water rinse is an easy and inexpensive option for keeping your abscessed tooth clean of food and plaque. A clean tooth is less likely to be inflamed and thus cause you less pain.


How to use:

  1. Add 2 oz of water to a cup.

  2. Add about a teaspoon of salt.

  3. Stir mixture lightly.

  4. Rinse with salt water for about 2-5 minutes.

  5. Spit out and repeat as many times as necessary.



Oregano oil

Oregano oil is known to have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Since a dental abscess is full of bacteria, it should theoretically be effective. However, be aware that the oil may have trouble reaching the source of the infection, which reduces the effectiveness of the oil significantly.


How to use:

  1. Place a drop of oregano oil onto a cotton swab.

  2. Apply the oil to the offending tooth for 2 minutes.

  3. Repeat a few times throughout the day.



Cold compress

A cold compress can physically numb the pain from any sort of swelling that comes from a tooth abscess. The numbing will offer some temporary pain relief, at least while you're doing it.


How to use:

  1. Place an ice pack or compress on the side with swelling.

  2. Ice it for 15 minutes

  3. Remove the compress for 15 minutes

  4. Repeat steps #2-3 as often as needed.


Clove oil

You may be surprised but a lot of dental products contain cloves as an ingredient. It is approved for use as temporary relief for toothaches in the United Kingdom. However, the United states does not share the same sentiment but you can definitely smell clove oil in a lot of dental offices. The reason is that it is approved when used as a part of other ingredients but not when it is alone.


How to use:

  1. Apply a drop of clove oil onto a cotton tip.

  2. Rub it to the offending tooth for 5-10 minutes.

  3. Rinse out thoroughly with water.

  4. Repeat as needed throughout the day.



Thyme oil

This essential oil has antiseptic properties and is commonly used in oral infections of fungal and yeast origins. Therefore it may help kill bacteria and other microorganisms in relation to an abscessed tooth.


How to use:

  1. Add a drop or two of thyme oil to a cotton swab.

  2. Apply it around the offending tooth for 5-10 minutes.

  3. Rinse your mouth out with water.

  4. Repeat as many times as needed.



Hydrogen peroxide

Studies have shown that hydrogen peroxide can reduce the amount of infection by 50% after rinsing for 15 seconds with a 6% solution. Most people have a bottle in their medicine cabinet so it is readily accessible.


How to use:

  1. Mix 4 oz of water with 4 oz of hydrogen peroxide.

  2. Stir the mixture lightly.

  3. Rinse and gargle with the solution for 15-30 seconds total.

  4. Spit out.

  5. Repeat a few times during the day.



Pain medication

Either ibuprofen or acetaminophen should hold you over until you can make it to the dentist. These pain relievers will reduce the amount of pain and inflammation coming from the tooth abscess. You do need to take it every few hours for the effect to last, which means that it is not a permanent solution.


How to use:

  1. Take either 600 mg of ibuprofen or 650 mg of acetaminophen every 8 hours.

  2. Repeat until you can make it to the dentist.

  3. Do not take pain medication long term since it has dire consequences.



Takeaway

A pregnant mother should seek dental care if they have a tooth abscess because it is perfectly safe to do so. In fact, the ACOG states that it is okay to treat dental issues at all stages of pregnancy so there is no restriction.


Obstetricians are actually more comfortable with their patients receiving dental care than a dentist. However, they seem to be less likely to recommend to their patients to seek dental treatment. Awareness in that aspect does need to be raised.


In conclusion, if you have an abscess or think you have one you should schedule a dental check up immediately. It is safe and makes no sense to endure the pain from a dental infection. So what are you waiting for? Go give your dentist a call.

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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!