Although men and women share many of the same oral health concerns, fluctuations in female hormones can lead to an increased risk of certain dental problems among women. Dr. Darian Hampton explores how female hormones can affect women’s oral health.
Why Women Are at an Increased Risk for Some Dental Concerns
Fluctuations in female hormones can affect the blood supply to the gums. They can also affect the body’s response to the bacteria that are present due to plaque buildup. (Plaque is the soft, sticky film that accumulates on the teeth if it is not removed with daily brushing and flossing.) For these reasons, women might be at an increased risk for developing periodontal (gum) disease and other dental health issues, especially at certain times in their lives.
Five Times Women Are More Susceptible to Oral Health Concerns
In particular, there are five scenarios in which women are more susceptible to certain oral health concerns, such as gum disease. They are:
- Puberty. During puberty, females experience a surge in the body’s production of progesterone and estrogen, which can cause an increase in blood flow to the gums and can trigger an exaggerated physiological response to the toxins in plaque, potentially causing red, swollen, tender or bleeding gums. During this time, the hormone changes can also make gums more susceptible to early-stage periodontal disease (gingivitis).
- During the monthly menstrual cycle. The hormonal fluctuations that occur as part of the monthly menstrual cycle — the surge in progesterone, in particular — may cause oral changes, including red, swollen gums; the development of canker sores; swollen salivary glands; or bleeding gums. Some women may also experience temporary gingivitis that occurs one or two days before menstruation but resolves itself shortly after the onset of menstruation.
- When using oral contraception. Taking birth control pills that contain progesterone increases progesterone levels in the body and can cause oral changes similar to the ones described above.
- Pregnancy. During pregnancy, many hormone fluctuations occur, including a dramatic increase in progesterone levels, which can, again, make a woman more susceptible to gum disease, especially during the second to eighth month of pregnancy; this condition is referred to as pregnancy gingivitis. Let Dr. Hampton know if you are pregnant, as he may recommend more frequent teeth cleanings during this time.
- Menopause. Several oral changes can occur during menopause due to the natural aging process, hormonal changes that accompany menopause or the use of certain medications to combat the onset of age-related diseases. Oral changes range from increased sensitivity to cold and hot foods to a decrease in the production of saliva, which can lead to dry mouth. In turn, dry mouth can lead to tooth decay and periodontal disease, because there is not enough saliva to neutralize the acids generated by plaque. Menopausal women also experience a decline in estrogen that increases their risk of bone loss, including jawbone loss. Without an ample amount of jawbone matter, the teeth may loosen and fall out.
What Women Should Do to Protect Their Oral Health
Dr. Hampton realizes that this information may sound bleak. However, he doesn’t share this information to scare women. Rather, he would like to raise awareness about women’s oral health issues, so they are diligent about practicing good oral hygiene practices and visiting him for their annual exams and teeth cleanings. With regular office visits, Dr. Hampton can help monitor women’s oral health and let them know if he sees any problems developing.
To schedule an appointment with Dr. Hampton to evaluate your oral health, contact the Hamptons Family and Cosmetic Dentistry by calling (972) 395-9292.