Hormones play a vital role in our bodies, influencing various systems, including oral health. Women experience numerous hormonal changes throughout their lives, and these fluctuations can significantly impact the mouth. This blog post will dive into how women’s hormones affect oral health during different life stages and how to keep your mouth healthy through it all.
While girls are in puberty, the body produces more hormones, stimulating dozens of physical transformations. Some changes that often do not get talked about occur in the mouth. Due to the increased levels of estrogen and progesterone, canker sores and red, swollen, or bleeding gums are commonly experienced by pubescent girls. Maintaining excellent oral hygiene through regular brushing, daily flossing, and semi-annual dental check-ups is the key to avoiding these uncomfortable oral symptoms. These habits effectively reduce inflammation and oral discomfort.
While most women do not notice any changes to their mouth before their period, it is not uncommon for some to encounter tender or bleeding gums, canker sores, and swollen salivary glands. The hormonal shifts before and during menstruation trigger these discomforts, which tend to subside after the period concludes. However, if these symptoms persist after menstruation, it may indicate a different dental concern. Women should maintain consistent oral hygiene throughout their menstrual cycle, with particular diligence the week before and during menstruation. If gum sensitivity increases during this time, we recommend scheduling your semi-annual dental hygiene cleanings about a week after your period ends.
Hormonal Birth Control
Historically, inflammation was a common side effect of birth control. However, modern hormonal contraceptives contain significantly lower levels of estrogen and progesterone, making them unlikely to cause gum inflammation, according to the journal Periodontology 2000. Nonetheless, it is essential to inform your dentist if you are currently taking hormonal birth control, as certain medications prescribed for dental conditions may impact the effectiveness of hormonal contraceptives. Additionally, women using oral birth control have an almost two-fold increased risk of experiencing dry socket, an extremely painful condition that can occur after a tooth extraction when the blood clot in the tooth socket becomes dislodged or dissolves, exposing the underlying bone. Although rare, dry socket can lead to infections or other severe complications.
It is a common misconception that seeing a dentist while pregnant is unsafe. However, this is false. Dental care during pregnancy is not only entirely safe but also necessary. Pregnancy hormones heighten the risk for gum disease. In fact, nearly 60 to 75% of pregnant women experience an early stage of gum disease called gingivitis. Gingivitis tends to develop in the second to eighth month of gestation. Notable symptoms of gingivitis include red, tender, and bleeding gums. Thankfully, maintaining diligent daily oral hygiene practices, such as regular brushing and flossing, can effectively manage this condition. Additionally, your dentist may recommend more frequent cleanings during your second and third trimesters to control and prevent its progression.
Menopause brings many changes to a woman’s life and body. The shifts in hormone levels can cause several oral symptoms for menopausal women, including altered taste, burning sensations in the mouth, and increased sensitivity. Moreover, menopause can lead to two major oral concerns:
Dry Mouth: Saliva is an essential bodily fluid that helps keep the mouth healthy by regulating bacteria levels and removing food particles. Dry mouth can be uncomfortable and heighten the risk of cavities, gum disease, oral infections, and bad breath. If you experience dry mouth, sucking on ice chips, increasing your water intake, and using an over-the-counter dry mouth spray can reduce the dryness and help you maintain a healthy mouth. Avoiding tobacco, alcohol, caffeine and spicy, salty, or sugary foods can also lessen dry mouth.
Bone Loss: During menopause, the decreased amount of estrogen puts you at risk for loss of bone density. Your jawbone firmly anchors your teeth in place. When this bone deteriorates, it can lead to tooth loss. Talk to your dentist and family physician to ensure adequate calcium and vitamin D are in your diet to minimize the risk of bone loss.
Hormonal shifts can significantly affect a woman’s oral health. Feel free to ask us during your next exam if you have any questions about how your hormones affect your mouth. We are here to educate you on your oral health and provide personalized tips for maintaining a healthy smile.