Pregnant and Working as a Dental Hygienist: Everything You Need to Know

Pregnant and Working as a Dental Hygienist: Everything You Need to Know

If you are pregnant and working as a dental hygienist, read this article to find out what work will be like. We know that dentistry is a female-dominant industry. It’s not surprising that the issues surrounding employee pregnancy arise often.

Both dental practice owners and women working in the dental industry should know the regulations surrounding pregnancy. There are rules and standards set out to protect pregnant women in the workplace.

In the US, there is the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act that protects families. However, not many people are aware of their rights (and in your employer’s care) responsibilities. 

A Full Day’s Work

You may know how to treat a pregnant patient, but are you aware of how to handle being pregnant while working as a dental hygienist? There are some inevitable physiological and chemical changes that you will be going through. How this affects your work life will differ from person to person.

Morning Sickness

Nausea, indigestion, tiredness, vomiting, ah, the joys of being pregnant! A few things you can do to decrease these episodes are eating first thing in the morning, make ginger your BFF, and worst-case scenario, speak to your doctor about morning sickness medications. 

Ginger is a holistic method of reducing nausea and vomiting, but it can take a couple of days before you begin to reap the benefits of consuming it.

Although tough and uncomfortable, working as a dental hygienist while pregnant isn’t impossible. Look on the bright side, at least you can take comfort in an afternoon snooze cozied up in an available dental chair, right? 

Pregnancy Discrimination Act

This act applies to businesses that have over 15 employees (regulations vary by state). The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) varies from state to state. You are guaranteed to have the same opportunities as non-pregnant co-workers who may be limited in how they can perform their duties. The goal of PDA is to decrease pregnancy discrimination.

On Federal and state levels, it is illegal to fire a woman or refuse a promotion because she is pregnant. While the dentist doesn’t have to provide paid pregnancy leave, you can absolutely use your sick and vacation time at the time of your maternity leave.

Speaking to Your Employer

Having the talk with your employer about being pregnant should not be something to fear. Pregnant women are protected by the PDA, which offers protection.

There’s no perfect time to have this discussion, but waiting after the first few months once the risk of miscarriage has decreased is recommended.

Being a pregnant dental hygienist is hard enough, so don’t go stressing out about losing your job or losing hours.

Tell your employer that you are committed to the dental practice and that you will ensure your work performance doesn’t falter any more than it needs to.

Working During Your Third Trimester

If you’ve been able to get to the office and do your job when you can’t even see your own feet, congratulations! Remember, there’s nothing wrong with wearing leggings and eating every 4 minutes.

You may be going to the restroom more frequently, and your sleep quality may be diminished, so stick to tasks that you know. I’m not advising you to slack off, but I highly recommend sticking to jobs that you know like the back of your hand.

Potentially Concerning Exposure

Pregnant dental hygienists have the right to protect themselves and their unborn child from the potential risks of working with nitrous oxide, sterilization chemicals, and radiation.

Nitrous Oxide

Your dental practice should already be equipped with an appropriate ventilation system. It is best to avoid treatment rooms where nitrous is used. 

Sterilization Chemicals

Handling chemicals used to sterilize dental tools may not cause any issues for an adult. However, research suggests that it may impact the development of your unborn child.


Using protective gear and the use of personal dosimetry, you will have peace of mind knowing you’re protecting yourself and your baby.

Taking an x-ray may not be eminent to you or your unborn child’s health. But being in the same room as an x-ray unit for an extended time may increase your exposure to radiation.

In Summary

For whatever reason, you may choose to work during your pregnancy. There are times where a doctor doesn’t sign off on your leave. You may love your job and want to stick around. Keeping busy is an excellent tool for the unexpected hormonal outbursts that are inevitable.

Know your rights. The PDA was enacted in 1974, so pregnant women are not denied medical benefits and discriminated against. 

Don’t feel bad if your doctor’s appointments are calling you away from your duties as a dental hygienist. Keep in mind that you’re doing the right thing by ensuring your unborn baby is healthy. 

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About the author

Heather Burton

Heather lives with her husband and two children in beautiful British Columbia. Her passion has always been to enhance the lives of others by helping them reach their own personal goals and accomplishments. Content management is her specialty, and writing is what she does best. Her love for helping others lead her to the cannabis scene where she saw an immense gap between patients and medicine that can help them.

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