Hormones and Oral Health: What Every Woman Needs to Know

Did you know that hormones may be responsible for your gum disease? Female hormones can have a large influence over just about every aspect of your health, including oral health. Here’s how it works: an increase in female hormones, estrogen and progesterone, cause an increase of blood flow to your gums. This can cause the to become more sensitive and overly reactive to irritants. When hormone levels are high, women become more sensitive to the presence of plaque and bacteria around the gums. According to a recent article from the American Dental Association (ADA), “This can cause your gums to become inflamed, swell and bleed. If left untreated, ongoing inflammation in the gums can also lead to bone loss around the teeth and eventual tooth loss.”

There’s not a whole lot you can do in terms of your hormones, but preventing and reversing the effects of resulting gum disease is completely achievable. Here’s a look at how to properly take care of your mouth throughout five hormonally-charged phases in a woman’s life.

Puberty

The hormones of a 12-year-old girl may be wreaking havoc on a young lady’s disposition and dental health alike. Increased hormone levels can cause red, swollen, bleeding gums and even canker sores in some. The best treatment at this age is prevention. Brushing twice a day, flossing once a day and regularly visiting the dentist should help reduce inflammation and discomfort.

Menstrual Cycle

Some women experience changes in their mouths in the days leading up to, and during their menstrual cycle. Symptoms, like swollen salivary glands, sore, red gums, and canker sores, should subside after your period stops. If they don’t, it’s time to make an appointment with your dentist, as something else might be to blame. Again, the best way to address this is through proper dental hygiene.

Oral Contraceptives

For many women taking birth control pills, inflammation is a common side effect. But in recent years, the levels of estrogen and progesterone have been reduced, eliminating the issue for most. While you may not experience the uncomfortable side effects any more, it’s still a good idea to inform your dentist of your daily prescription use for two reasons. First, your dentist may need to write you a prescription, and some medications can influence your birth control’s effectiveness. And secondly, if you’re having a tooth extracted, your risk of developing dry socket doubles if using an oral contraceptive.

Pregnancy

While with child, your hormone levels are on a constant roller coaster, mostly riding high. The increased levels contribute to many women developing pregnancy gingivitis. It is most common between the second and eighth months of pregnancy, but you can stay on top of it by practicing a good oral hygiene routine regularly. Despite previous beliefs, visiting your dentist during pregnancy is very important and completely safe. If you notice any changes to your mouth during pregnancy, be sure to see your dentist.

Menopause

Hormones are responsible for many of the changes a woman goes through during menopause, including altered taste, burning sensations in your mouth and increased sensitivity. But none of these changes are as important as dry mouth and bone loss. “Saliva cleanses the teeth and rinses cavity-causing bacteria off your teeth,” said ADA dentist, Dr. Alice Boghosian. “When you have dry mouth, your saliva flow decreases and you’re more at risk for cavities.” If dry mouth is an issue, talk to your dentist. In the meantime, you can suck on ice chips or sugar-free candy to help, and be sure to drink plenty of water or other caffeine-free drinks. Avoiding salty, spicy, sticky and sugary foods might also help. Alcohol, tobacco and caffeine will likely exacerbate the problem, so you should avoid those too. Bone loss is also a serious issue. As estrogen decreases, your risk of losing bone significantly increases. Receding gums are a common symptom and sign that you need to see your dentist. To help reduce your risk, talk to your dentist and physician to make sure you’re getting enough calcium and vitamin D, and avoid smoking and excessive alcohol consumption.

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