Maintaining good dental health is a challenge for all of us but it can be especially challenging for women. Women’s bodies have major changes that occur throughout life including monthly cycles and pregnancy. These changes are due to changes in hormones. As you may know, hormones can be responsible for dramatic shifts in our bodies chemistry.
Recent studies have shown an increased risk for periodontal disease in women due to hormonal changes. Fluctuations in female hormones seem to be the main risk factor. For women, this means it effects them over the course of their entire lives. Female sex hormone changes occur at puberty, menstruation, during pregnancy, and throughout menopause. The study found that as female sex hormones fluctuate throughout a woman’s life they can change conditions in the mouth that allow bacteria to grow and enter the bloodstream. This development can and usually does intensify certain health issues like bone loss in the body and especially the mouth.
Female Changes Through Life
Below you will find a list of some of the major hormonal events that a female must deal with that can affect her dental health as well as her overall health.
-Menstrual Cycle. Is the regular natural changes that occurs in the uterus and ovaries that make pregnancy possible. The menstrual cycle is required for the production of eggs, and for the preparation of the uterus for a possible pregnancy. About 80% of women report having some symptoms during the one to two weeks prior to menstruation. Common symptoms include acne, tender breasts, bloating, feeling tired, irritability, and mood changes. These changes can also include increased inflammation of gum tissues and sensitivity to your gums. Maintaining dental hygiene is even more important during the menstrual cycle changes to keep symptoms to a minimum.
There may also be an increase in the development of canker sores and blisters at this time. It is probably a good idea to watch these sores and ensure they go away in a timely manner. If the sores become inflamed or linger for longer than 5-7 days it is best to see your dentist as soon as possible.
-Pregnancy. Another major period of change within a woman’s body. During pregnancy, hormones like estrogen, progesterone, as well as others, rise and fall on a weekly basis. Because of this, dental problems can be intensified and made more serious. Problems that were once unrecognizable before pregnancy may become unbearable during it.
When you’re pregnant, you become very aware of how important it is to take extra special care of your body. You should also know that pregnancy is a time to take extra special care of your teeth and gums. That’s because hormonal changes in your body during pregnancy can increase your chances of developing tooth decay, pregnancy gingivitis, and advancement of periodontal disease .Studies have shown that women with existing periodontal disease are 7 times more likely to have preterm births and low birth weight babies.
Preventive dental cleanings and regular dental exams during pregnancy are not only completely safe, but are highly recommended by both dentists and physicians alike. Pregnancy causes hormonal changes to a woman’s body. This increase in hormones causes the gums to bleed easily, become inflamed, and trap food causing increased irritation to your gingival tissue.
Researchers believe that periodontal disease may lead to premature birth by the spread of oral bacteria to the placenta or amniotic fluid. Systemic inflammation caused by periodontitis may also lead to preterm labor and membrane rupture. The probable culprit is a chemical called prostaglandin, released into the bloodstream during inflammation, which can induce labor. Prostaglandin is released in very high levels in severe cases of periodontal disease.
Almost one half of women experience pregnancy gingivitis, starting in the 2nd or 3rd month of pregnancy. It generally increases in severity all the way through to the eighth month. This pregnancy gingivitis can be very uncomfortable and cause inflammation, bleeding, redness or tenderness in the gums. If you already have poor oral hygiene and gum disease before pregnancy begins, expect an extreme progression in your periodontal condition as you end your first trimester and onward. In some women, gums swollen by pregnancy gingivitis can react strongly to irritants and form large growths. These are called pregnancy tumors. These are not cancerous and are usually painless in nature. This tumor may require removal by a dentist if it persists.
If you are planning to get pregnant, it is a good idea to see your dentist prior to trying to concieve to ensure your oral health is fine. You should have a complete dental exam at this time along with a dental cleaning and complete treatment on any other issues you might have to ward off complications during pregnancy.
-Menopause. Menopause may also contribute to some oral ailments such as the following:
1. Xerostomia (Dry Mouth). As a woman’s estrogen levels decrease it can lead to a drier mouth. Saliva is nature’s way of keeping our mouth clean and hydrated. Without sufficient amounts of saliva our teeth become more susceptible to tooth decay and periodontal infections. Dry mouth can also come from many medications (prescriptions or over the counter) that are commonly prescribed as we get older.
2. Menopausal Gingivostomatitis. This can occur to a very small percentage of women but can be very damaging. Gums that look dry or shiny, bleed easily and range from abnormally pale to deep red are hallmarks of this condition. Estrogen supplements are usually able to help to relieve these symptoms.
3. Bone Density Changes. The decrease in estrogen that occurs with menopause also puts women at greater risk for loss of bone density. Loss of bone in the jaw area can lead to tooth loss. Gum recession can also be a sign of bone loss in the jawbone. Receding gums also expose more of the tooth surface to potential tooth decay by exposing more areas of the tooth to the acids in the mouth. Gingival grafting may be necessary to cover the receding areas.
4. Change In Taste. This is especially true for salty, peppery or sour.
5. Burning Mouth Syndrome. This can affect the tongue, gum tissues, lips, and possibly the tissues inside the cheeks of the mouth. The burning mouth sensation generally occurs from changes in taste and the sensory nerves in the mouth. It can also be caused as a result of dry mouth, poor nutrition, and even allergic reactions to food or drug. If you note any of these symptoms contact your dentist immediately for help in relieving the discomfort.
6. Eating Disorders. Nutritional changes can occur from a woman’s change in her own body self image. These changes can lead to poor nutrition and improper eating habits. These changes can make our teeth more susceptible to teeth damage.
-Birth Control Pills. Another factor that may also contribute is the use of oral contraceptives or birth control pills. These pills trick the body into thinking it is pregnant through the use of hormones so that ovulation does not occur each month. Because the body believes that it is pregnant, the same problems that women experience during pregnancy may occur if the woman is taking birth control. Utilizing this medication makes it even more necessary for you to take good care of your oral hygiene and to pay close attention to any sensitivity, swelling, or discomfort in the mouth.
Female Dental Health Conclusion
As noted above, it is important for women to see their dentist regularly for examinations and dental cleanings as well as to maintain diligent dental care at home. Make sure to follow proper brushing and flossing habits, as well as using a strengthening fluoride rinse, and your teeth and gums should feel comfortable and healthy!