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Experts Corner


Anesthetic During Pregnancy
by Jennifer Holtzman, DDS, Executive Director, ToothWoman Network

Jennifer Holtzman, DDSQ. If I need dental work during pregnancy (cavities filled, root canal, extraction, etc), what kind of anesthetic is safe?

A. Unfortunately, all local anesthetics that dentists use cross the placenta. We know how much local anesthetic is safe for infants and children, but we don't have a lot of information about safe amounts during pregnancy. As little as required to keep you comfortable during the procedure is probably the best rule to follow. Will you feel pressure? Yes. But if it's painful, ask your dentist to numb the area more. It's important that you are as comfortable as possible for two reasons: 1.when you're comfortable, the stress on the baby is reduced, 2. the more relaxed and comfortable you are, the better the anesthetic will work and the less discomfort you will have after the procedure.

There are several things you can do to make your visit as comfortable as possible, and keep the amount of anesthetic that you'll require to a minimum.

  • You may want to take a mild pain medication prior to your appointment. If you're not sure what medication is safe for you, discuss options with your health care provider.

  • If you're anxious about the procedure, talk to your dentist about whether laughing gas (nitrous oxide) would be appropriate to help keep you comfortable and relaxed. For many women laughing gas is safe and effective, as long as you are breathing at least 50% oxygen and the nitrous oxide isn't used for more than 30 minutes.

  • Have some protein 40-60 minutes before your appointment to minimize any hunger.

  • While you're in the dental chair, focus on your breathing and keep your legs next to each other, not crossed to keep your blood circulation flowing.

  • Bring headphones and favorite, relaxing CDs or audiotapes.

  • If you'll need a lot of dental work, make several short appointments rather than fewer, longer appointments. Take a pillow to place under your right hip to keep you and the baby more comfortable.


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