Research from the Journal of Periodontology suggests women are more likely to floss, visit the dentist regularly, and even have cosmetic dental procedures while being less likely to smoke and drink excessive alcohol than men. Although women have historically been better caretakers of their teeth, females are more susceptible to gum disease than males for one defining reason, hormones. Fluctuating hormones can cause a variety of oral health problems, especially those related to gum health. Dr. Fondriest explains how different stages in a woman’s life correlate with different oral health problems.
Hormonal Changes Create Gum Health Issues
Girls going through puberty have many changes to deal with in a short amount of time. One of these changes includes oral health care. During puberty girls may experience swollen gums that appear deep red or sensitive. These symptoms closely match those of gingivitis, but will eventually subside once the girl’s estrogen and progesterone levels have reached a balance. These symptoms may also reappear right before a menstrual cycle and again subside once the period has started.
Gum Disease and Pregnancy Complications
Hormonal changes due to pregnancy also factor into a woman’s oral health. In fact, dental care is especially important for expectant mothers because it affects their infant’s health as well. Mothers with periodontal disease run the risk of low birth weight, premature birth, or other pregnancy complications. Gum irritation and inflammation is common from the third to eighth month of pregnancy, making prenatal dental checkups and cleanings that much more essential.
Female hormone variations exacerbate gum disease
Despite the fact that women on average practice better dental hygiene than men, simply being a woman increases the risk of developing gum disease. Hormonal variation activates the bacteria associated with gum disease which can cause conditions ranging from inflammation and fatigue to heart disease and diabetes. Gum disease may even cause complications in pregnancy, such as early labor and low birth weight.
Fluctuating Hormones and Gum Disease
Gum disease, also called periodontal disease, can occur at any time in a woman’s life. The hormonal changes of adolescence, menstruation, pregnancy and menopause can adversely affect gum health. The changing hormones of menopause decrease bone density, even in the jawbone, contributing to tooth loss in postmenopausal women.
Contraceptive pills may also affect oral health. One study found that women on oral contraceptives, who already had some degree of gum disease had more gingival bleeding and deeper periodontal pockets than those who were not taking oral contraceptives.
Pregnancy and Periodontal Disease
Because hormonal changes during pregnancy can exacerbate gingivitis, a dental checkup before becoming pregnant is a good idea. Although gingivitis developed during pregnancy generally goes away after childbirth, extra checkups and cleanings may be recommended during pregnancy, since periodontal disease has been linked in some studies with low birth weight babies.
Symptoms of Gum Disease
Signs of periodontitis include:
- Red, swollen or tender gums
- Bleeding while brushing or flossing
- The appearance of black triangles between the teeth along the gumline, indicating tooth separation and or bone loss
- Gum recession, causing teeth to look elongated
- Loose teeth
- A change in the alignment of your bite
- Pus between your gums and teeth, sores in your mouth, or persistent bad breath
To help prevent gum disease, brush at least twice a day, concentrating on the gumline. Scrape your tongue with your toothbrush to eliminate bacteria. Floss nightly and use an oral rinse. See your Chicago dentist twice a year for checkups and cleanings, particularly during times of hormonal fluctuation like pregnancy and menopause.
In addition to good dental hygiene, vitamin supplements may promote oral health. Vitamin D strengthens teeth to discourage infection and decay, vitamin C and CoQ10 boost immunity to help fight off infection, and Omega-3 contains anti-inflammatory properties to discourage gum disease.
Learn more about how female hormones and gum disease are related
We can assist you with preventive and restorative dental care and give you the healthy smile you’ve always wanted. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Fondriest by calling (847)234-0517. Our practice gladly serves patients from Chicago and the North Shore and Northwest Suburbs.