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.
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.