Can I Get Braces While Pregnant?

pregnant woman with braces

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Although you may equate braces with adolescence, these dental devices can help align the teeth and improve their functioning at any age. Whether you’ve been dying to straighten your teeth since you were in middle school or it’s something you’d suddenly like to check off your list before your baby arrives, you don’t have to put off braces while you're pregnant.

“There is no contraindication to orthodontic care during pregnancy,” says Andrea Chisholm, MD, a Massachusetts-based OB/GYN, and Verywell Family review board member. 

Here’s what else you need to get straight before settling into an orthodontist’s chair.

What Are Braces? 

Braces are medical devices comprised of wires and brackets that are affixed to the teeth and periodically adjusted to slowly move the teeth.

“Most people think the benefit of orthodontic treatment is acquiring a beautiful smile,” says Ken Dillehay, DDS, a Kansas-based orthodontist and the president of The American Academy of Ophthalmology. They’re not wrong. “But orthodontic treatment also helps ensure the proper functioning of teeth and creates healthier smiles,” he says. 

Aligning the teeth makes it easier to bite, chew, and speak, while misaligned teeth are harder to clean and can lead to the abnormal wearing of tooth enamel over time, Dr. Dillehay explains. While braces aren’t a necessity in most cases, neglecting orthodontic care can set some people up for extensive—and expensive—dental interventions down the road. 

Is It Safe to Get Braces During Pregnancy?

Experts agree that there is no medical reason to avoid orthodontic treatment during pregnancy. “As with any patient ready to undergo orthodontic therapy, the health of their teeth and gums is what will determine whether they are good candidates for orthodontic treatment,” Dr. Dillehay says. 

One consideration is that orthodontic treatment often requires diagnostic oral X-rays; experts disagree on whether small amounts of radiation can interfere with a fetus’s rapid cell division and development, which could increase the risk of birth defects or illness down the road.

“Overall, the amount of radiation exposure from dental X-rays is considered very low and not considered to be harmful to you or your unborn baby,” says Dr. Chisholm, adding that your orthodontist should still place a lead shield over your abdomen and thyroid. 

Every pregnancy is different. Be sure to consult with a healthcare provider about your circumstances if you have any questions about getting braces during pregnancy.

Benefits of Getting Braces During Pregnancy

From a practical standpoint, it may make sense for you to get braces before your baby arrives. This way, you’ll avoid the inconvenience of schlepping a child to regular appointments. (Just keep in mind that it may take longer to move your teeth than grow your baby, so orthodontic treatment begun during pregnancy may not be completed until after you become a parent.)

Medically, pregnancy isn’t a bad time to get braces since your teeth may be more prone to movement during this time, anyhow. “Some women may experience slight loosening of their teeth due to pregnancy hormones,” Dr. Dillehay says, adding that the teeth tend to firm up after delivery. 

The phenomenon could be related to the pregnancy hormone relaxin, which loosens the ligaments in the pelvis to prepare the body for childbirth, according to Dr. Chisholm. “It may also loosen ligaments that secure your teeth to your jaw,” she explains. 

Because of these changes, you should always let your orthodontist know if you know you are (or think you could be) pregnant—even in the early weeks. 

Downsides of Getting Braces During Pregnancy 

Although successful orthodontic treatment can improve your confidence and even promote oral health, temporary side effects are plentiful and can be a lot to handle on top of run-of-the-mill pregnancy aches, pains, and other symptoms. 

Heightened Propensity for Gum Disease

During pregnancy, braces can get in the way of your oral care routine when you need them most. Pregnancy increases your risk of the gum disease known as gingivitis, while braces make it harder to floss and reach the surfaces of your teeth. 

And it’s not just about avoiding cavities. These oral health issues can increase your risk of low birth weight and preterm birth.

The good news is that gingivitis is preventable—and treatable. “Be prepared to take extra time on oral care, which can be more complicated with braces,” Dr. Dillehay acknowledges, adding that more frequent cleanings and extra efforts on the oral hygiene front may be necessary if you are diagnosed with gum disease. 

Food Restrictions 

It’s no secret that pregnant individuals are subjected to certain dietary restrictions. No sushi, lunch meat, tuna, unpasteurized cheese, or alcohol is allowed. Braces can further reduce your eating options since hard foods like raw apples and carrot sticks and sticky foods like caramels and taffy are contraindicated—they can break brackets or get stuck under wires.

If you’re prone to pregnancy cravings or just don’t want to deal with a diminishing menu as your appetite increases, it may be smart to delay braces.

Discomfort

Tooth and gum sensitivity come part and parcel with pregnancy—and that’s not all. “Teeth become a little bit more sensitive to temperature changes during pregnancy,” Dr. Dillehay warns. 

Braces can aggravate oral discomfort while pregnancy contraindicates you for many typical over-the-counter pain killers. “Pain management for your brace discomfort during pregnancy can be a bit complicated,” says Dr. Chisholm.

Non-steroidal pain relievers such as ibuprofen should be avoided during pregnancy. Although acetaminophen was previously thought to be safe for use during pregnancy, new research suggests it may alter fetal development to increase the risk of certain neurological, reproductive, and urogenital disorders.

“Growing concern about acetaminophen exposure during pregnancy has led some experts to recommend using it minimally and at the lowest therapeutic dose,” says Dr. Chisholm. 

That said, topical oral anesthetics, orthodontic wax, and rinsing with warm salt water get the green light during pregnancy, as do time-tested remedies like ice cream, smoothies, and milkshakes, which can provide some cooling relief (and satisfaction should you have a pregnancy that triggers a bottomless appetite).

Time Commitment

Throughout your orthodontic treatment, you’ll need to visit an orthodontist every six to 10 weeks and maintain regular dental checkups at least every six months. On top of regular OB/GYN visits, that’s a lot of doctor's appointments! If you work full-time, these commitments can become overwhelming—especially while preparing for the arrival of a baby or taking care of other children.

A Word From Verywell

While it’s always smart to discuss any medical procedures with your OB/GYN, midwife, or healthcare provider when you are pregnant or trying to conceive, it’s perfectly safe to get orthodontic treatment during pregnancy. Just be sure to let your orthodontist know that you are pregnant, make sure your belly is covered with a lead shield during necessary oral X-rays, and take extra care in cleaning around your braces during pregnancy.

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6 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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