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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 gingivitisand 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!

BPA? What is it? BPA is short for Bisphenol A. BPA is an organic compound  that is used throughout the manufacture of many consumer plastic products, and has been found in some dental composites and sealants.

BPA has been shown to have hormone-like (estrogen) properties that raise concern about its suitability in consumer products and food containers. Some laboratory testing has suggested that BPA may effect reproduction and development in animals by mimicking the effects of the female hormone estrogen. This testing is raising concerns about its safety. Recent scientific research has found links between BPA and serious health problems, from heart disease, diabetes and liver abnormalities in adults to developmental problems in the brains and hormonal systems of children.

BPA and Dentistry

There are three ways BPA can become a part of dental materials:

1. As a direct ingredient in dental composites or dental sealants.

2. As a by-product of degrading dental composites or dental sealants in saliva. Composite resins are formulated from a mixture of monomers that are commonly based on bisphenol A glycidyl methacrylate (bis-GMA). Some composite resins may contain other monomers, in addition to bis-GMA, that are added to modify the properties of the resin. An example is bisphenol A dimethacrylate (bis-DMA). Bis-GMA and Bis-DMA-containing materials can release  BPA because both  bis-DMA and Bis-GMA are subject to degradation by salivary enzymes. Bis-DMA releases more BPA than Bis-GMA.

3. As a trace material during manufacture of dental materials. BPA may be used in the production of other ingredients found in some dental composites and sealants. Bis-DMA and bis-GMA are both produced using BPA as a starting ingredient, so residual trace amounts of BPA may be present in the final product.

There are many products utilized for “white” fillings. You can ask if your dentist is BPA free. The products utilized should not contain BPA, and even better if there is also no Bis DMA.

What Can Be Done To Limit Dental Exposure To BPA?

The big concern first was the use of traditional dental materials like dental amalgam. Amalgam contains mercury and there has been vigorous debate regarding its health effects. While all dental amalgam fillings contain mercury, not all dental composites and dental sealants contain Bisphenol-A (BPA). It is important to choose a dentist who carefully selects dental composites and dental sealants that are BPA free.

What if you already have dental composites or dental sealants? Should you be concerned?

It is important to remember the amount of BPA released in dental composites and dental sealants is very small. Although, the effect of BPA accumulation may be small it is important to note that it is a cumulative effect. Over the course of a lifetime the BPA will build up like most environmental toxins. Still, if the dental work in question is not causing any immediate health problems that you experience, removing the dental composite can do more harm than good. The trauma each tooth would undergo through the removal process may do more substantial harm to the teeth.

Common Items Containing BPA

-Baby Bottle

-Water Bottles

-Sports Equipment

-Medical and Dental Devices

-Dental composite filling

-Dental Sealants

-Cd’s and DVD’s

-Lining of Water Pipes

-Lining of Soda cans

How To Reduce Overall Exposure To BPA?

Choosing products that are BPA free  is important. Make good choices in everyday products as well as dental materials. Below are some tips to reduce overall BPA exposure for you and your loved ones.

-Choose Cardboard Or Glass Containers Over Cans. Most cans used in food preparation today are lined with BPA. The food in these cans are in contact with this lining allowing the food to leach BPA from the lining. Highly acidic foods (like tomato sauce) tend to leach more BPA than lower acidic foods. Choosing cardboard or glass will be safer in the long run.

-Avoid Microwaving Plastic Food Containers. The packaging in many microwaveable foods can break down under the high temperatures of the microwave. This will release BPA into your food from the lining of the container. It is not required to report whether a container contains BPA but plastic containers that do are usually marked with a #7 recycling code on the bottom of the package.

-Choose BPA Free Baby Bottles. The general rule for plastics is hard and clear contains BPA while soft or cloudy does not. Luckily, most major manufacturers now tout BPA free bottles for our children.

-Use Powdered Infant Formula. Recent research has shown that liquid formulas contain more BPA than the powdered version.

Bisphenol-A (BPA) Conclusion

Research continues to mount regarding the health hazards of Bisphenol-A (BPA) so it would be wise to protect your family and be educated. While we can probably never live a BPA free life we can limit exposure by making smart choices in dental care as well as our lifestyle. Manufacturers are making their own choices, and moving towards many BPA free products. Hopefully, future research will continue with the evolution of even better products to keep us all healthier.

Canker sores tend to be very unpredictable in nature and quite uncomfortable for many. Canker sores (apthous ulcers) are white sores, not blisters, that occur inside the mouth. They range in size from small dots to large coin sized ulcerations. They can be quite painful, may make eating, speaking or smiling difficult, and may take 1-2 weeks to heal. The canker sores have been studied for years, but the exact cause remains a mystery. They have been linked to a person’s genetic background, increased stress, or even minor dental trauma.  The big question remains, what should you do to avoid canker sores.

Tips To Avoid Canker Sores

-Maintain Proper Nutrition. It is important to maintain proper eating habits ensuring you are ingesting the right mix of vitamins and minerals to keep you healthy. Nutritional deficiencies have been shown to cause mouth ulcers. Researchers have shown that vitamin B12, zinc, iron, l-lysine, and folic acid are all very helpful in preventing canker sores.

-Avoid Certain Foods. If you are suffering from a canker sore you should restrict your diet. Acidic drinks (such as orange juice or lemonade) can irritate the canker sores and actually prolong the healing process. Eating chocolate is a known trigger for apthous ulcers.

-Change Oral Hygiene Products. The bubbling agent in toothpaste can be an irritant to the oral tissues. If you notice sloughing tissues, red irritated tissue, and frequent canker sores, you may want to cut out regular toothpaste. Experiment with some new dental hygiene products that are  gentler on your mouth. There are specialized canker sore toothpastes specially formulated not to irritate the mouth. These toothpastes are sodium lauryl sulfate free (SLS). Sodium lauryl sulfate is generally used in toothpastes to produce that foaming action when brushing. It is believed that removing SLS will reduce the incidence of canker sores.

-Hormones. Large jumps in hormones such as during menstrual cycle, menopause, pregnancy can trigger canker sores.

-Medications. Certain medications may trigger apthous ulcers such as Nicorandil, a medicine used in patients with angina.

 What To Do If The Canker Sores Persist

-DeBacterol. These topical canker sore treatments chemically cauterize the ulcer. The relief is instantaneous, and the healing is within days instead of weeks. Drinking milk is supposed to help decrease canker sore outbreaks.

-Drinking milk is supposed to help decrease canker sore outbreaks.

-Supplement with a multivitamin to be sure you are getting everything your body needs.

-Dental Examinations.  If you are experiencing persistent sores in one area of the mouth, call your dentist and make an appointment to get the surrounding teeth and gums checked.

 You should contact your dentist about canker sores if you have the following:

-Unusually large sores.

-Sores that are spreading.

-Sores that last 3 weeks or longer.

-Intolerable pain despite avoiding trigger foods and taking over-the-counter pain medication.

-Difficulty drinking enough fluids.

-A high fever along with the appearance of the canker sores.

Canker Sore Conclusion

Canker sores can be uncomfortable and even debilitating but there are steps that can be taken to relieve them when they occur and  in some cases avoid them completely. The frequency with which you develop sores, the size of them, and how long they last are important. Discuss all of this with your dentist so that he/she may assess whether they are typical canker sores or a more serious issue which may require further treatment and investigation.

Recent studies have shown an increased risk for periodontal disease in women. Why are women more prone to the disease, and what can be done to help decrease the risks? While there are many risk factors, which seem to be more prevalent?

Female hormones seem to be the main risk factor.  The study done at Case Western University has shown a link between female sex hormones and periodontal disease. 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.

What can women do to prevent Periodontal Disease?

Some preventive steps  are the same for men and for women. These include, maintaining proper oral hygiene, regular dental examinations, and professional cleanings. For women, the steps may need to be brought to the next level.  Women are presented with different challenges in  life that can at different periods increase the risk for periodontal disease and progression. In its earliest stages, periodontal disease (called ginigivitis at this point) is reversible, but if periodontal disease progresses to the stage called periodontitis it is much more difficult to combat. The following are some tips for women to prevent periodontal disease:

-Maintain proper oral hygiene at home. This is doubly important for women especially during the times of their lives when sex hormones are elevated. This includes brushing at least twice a day (after every meal is even better when possible), flossing at least once per day, using an antibacterial mouth rinse, an electric toothbrush and waterpik with periogen, and drinking water. Decrease snacking and try to maintain a healthy diet. You may even want to try oil pulling therapy.

-Regular dental visits and professional cleanings. It is recommended to have a dental exam every 6 months and at least 2 professional cleanings per year. The number of cleanings recommended by your dentist is based on your risk factors. Hormonal fluctuations, advancement of gum disease, and bone loss are reason to increase cleanings to every 3-4 months. It was long believed that women should not seek dental care during pregnancy. The opposite is true,  women who are pregnant need to be diligent to avoid developing periodontal disease. Periodontal disease has been linked to pre term birth as well as low birth weight of children. Women going through hormone fluctuation (menses, pregnancy, menopause) are also at higher risk for tooth decay.

-Be Healthy. Smokers are at an increased risk for periodontal disease as are diabetics. Quitting smoking and changing to a healthy diet can help your body increase it’s healing capability and decrease periodontal disease.

Periodontal Disease Conclusion

All of us need to be diligent with oral hygiene to keep healthy. The fact that women need to be extra diligent in maintaining proper oral hygiene throughout their lives is important to understand. We are only beginning to understand many of the hormonal risk factors for women. The research has made us aware that women need to work harder to maintain their oral health.