Believe it or not, there is gender inequality in oral health.
That’s right, women are predisposed to developing oral health problems – no matter how good one’s oral hygiene routine is.
The quick answer:
The answer you should memorize and share:
Women will experience hormonal changes at various times in their lives. These changes make women more susceptible to developing oral health problems.
Not only can hormones affect the blood supply to gum tissue, but they can also affect how the body responds to toxins that result from plaque buildup.
Because of these hormonal changes, women have a higher risk of developing periodontal disease at specific stages of their lives, in addition to other oral health problems.
Our dentist in Beaverton, OR wants to help families achieve optimal oral health, and that starts by raising awareness of the link between women’s hormones and oral health problems.
5 stages when women’s hormones can affect their oral health
During a woman’s life, there are five stages that can cause her hormones to fluctuate, making her more susceptible to developing an oral health problem.
Those include going through puberty, certain times in a monthly menstrual cycle, using birth control pills, during pregnancy, and at menopause.
Let’s take a closer look at each of these five stages.
During puberty, there is a surge in the production of the female hormones estrogen and progesterone. This surge can increase the blood flow to a woman’s gums and alter the way her gum tissue reacts to the irritants in plaque. This increase in blood flow can cause gum tissue to become red, swollen, tender, and a tendency to bleed more frequently during brushing and flossing.
Due to the hormonal changes (particularly the increase of progesterone) that occur during a monthly menstrual cycle, some women experience oral changes such as the development of canker sores, red swollen gums, swollen salivary glands, or bleeding gums.
Women may also get menstruation gingivitis. Symptoms of this condition are bleeding gums, red swollen gums, and sores on the inside of the cheek. Menstruation gingivitis typically occurs right before a woman’s period and clears up shortly after her period has started.
Women who take birth control pills that contain progesterone, which increases the level of that hormone in the body, may experience gum inflammation due to the body’s heightened reaction to plaque produced toxins.
If you take birth control pills, make sure you tell Dr. da Costa. That way he can advise you on the best way to deal with hormonal-related, oral health problems.
Women’s hormone levels change significantly during pregnancy. Studies suggest that an increase in progesterone alone can cause gum disease, called pregnancy gingivitis, any time between the second and eighth month of pregnancy.
Pregnant women who have periodontal disease may be more likely to have a baby that is born too early and too small.
This is why it is important for women to maintain regular cleanings and check-ups before, during, and after pregnancy. If necessary, Dr. da Costa may recommend additional cleanings to reduce the risk of developing gingivitis.
Aging can present a variety of oral health complications due to medications taken and hormonal changes associated with menopause. These can include a change in your ability to taste foods, frequent burning sensation in the mouth, greater sensitivity to hot and cold foods and drinks, and a decrease in the production of saliva, which can cause dry mouth.
A serious condition on its own, dry mouth can increase your risk of developing tooth decay and gum disease because without saliva to moisten and cleanse the mouth, plaque acids have an easier time causing damage to the health of your teeth.
A decline in estrogen that occurs during menopause also places a woman at greater risk for the loss of bone density. A loss in bone density, especially in the jaw, can cause tooth loss and gum recession, which also increases your risk of tooth decay.
Pay extra attention during hormonal changes
As a woman, it is important that you pay extra attention to your oral health during these five stages. Hormonal changes can do permanent damage to your smile if not looked after closely.
How can we all help?
It starts by raising awareness of the link between women’s hormones and oral health problems. The more people that know, especially women, the more smiles we can keep beautiful and healthy.
If you have any questions or would like advice on what further steps you can take to protect your teeth and gums, feel free to contact us. Or ask Dr. da Costa during your next appointment.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in November 2012 and has been completely revamped for comprehensiveness and timeliness.