Posted by Dr. Thomas Flavin Jan 26,2023
Throughout the course of a woman’s life, she undergoes several changes in which her hormonal levels fluctuate dramatically. During these times, the body, and the mouth, is affected in a variety of ways. At my Saint Louis dental office, we’d like let all of our patients know the oral health complications that can occur during phases of a woman’s life.
There are five major occasions when female hormones fluctuate and can cause oral health concerns like gum disease and other serious problems. This makes visits to your Saint Louis dentist and a proper at-home hygiene routine even more important for women than men, especially during these key moments in a woman’s life.
In the adolescent years, girls start the process of puberty where a lot of bodily changes occur because of hormonal differences. But these fluctuations in hormone levels not only affect the body, they affect the mouth as well. During puberty, the levels of estrogen and progesterone soar. This can cause an increase in blood flow to the gums and even a change in how the tissues react to bacteria and plaque, resulting in red, swollen gums, and often, bleeding during brushing and flossing.
After puberty, women begin to experience a monthly menstrual cycle. During these few days each month, the mouth is actually at increased risk for irritable gums and even periodic gingivitis. The increase in progesterone that occurs at these times can result in red, swollen, bleeding gums, swollen salivary glands, and canker sores. It’s also not uncommon for women to experience menstruation gingivitis, which develops a day or two before the cycle starts, and typically clears up within a few days.
As women grow, they may decide to use, or medically need, birth control pills. In fact, certain types of oral contraceptives can contain progesterone, which, again, can cause gum inflammation and irritation. This is a result of the body’s over-response to bacteria and plaque.
Even later in a woman’s life, she may decide to start a family. During pregnancy, dental care is extremely important since progesterone is again increased. This surge in the hormone can result in gum disease, typically any time between the second and eighth month. When this occurs, it’s called pregnancy gingivitis, and you may require more frequent cleanings and visits to help keep this condition away.
During menopause, hormones change yet again and can cause altered taste, increased sensitivity, and dry mouth. Dry mouth is of particular concern since saliva is not being produced, which means it’s not helping to remove bacteria or neutralize acids. This can lead to both gum disease and tooth decay. Additionally, during menopause, women tend to experience a drop in estrogen which is directly related to loss of bone density. This is worrisome especially if bone loss is in the jaw, as it can lead to tooth loss.
Throughout a woman’s life, and especially during these important stages, it’s important to keep regularly scheduled appointments at my dental office in Saint Louis. If you’re overdue for your hygiene appointment or exam, or if you’re at one of those peak stages of your life, we’ll make sure your mouth is healthy and work with you to keep it that way.
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Oral cancer may not be in the news as often as other cancers, but at Healthy Smiles of Saint Louis, it’s on our minds daily. Nearly 7,000 people will die in 2013 as a result of oral cancer, with approximately 36,000 new cases diagnosed. (Source: American Cancer Society) ORAL CANCER SYMPTOMS It’s important to have an oral cancer screening at every dental checkup. Oral cancer isn’t difficult to diagnose, but the danger is that it’s often caught in late stages when it’s spread to other parts of the body. If you notice any of the following symptoms in between checkups, please call us right away: * A sore that doesn’t heal * A lump or thickening of the lining of the mouth * Difficult or painful chewing or swallowing WHO GETS ORAL CANCER More than 80% of oral cancers in men (65% in women) occur in tobacco and alcohol users, and combined heavy tobacco and alcohol use increases the risk 300 times than that of non-users. (Source: National Institutes of Health, 2006) Notice we don’t say “smokers.” There is NO safe tobacco product, despite what you might hear. Even smokeless tobacco, pipes, and clove cigarettes increase your risk nearly 100 times more than non-tobacco users. HPV AND ORAL CANCER The human papillomavirus virus (HPV) is a sexually transmitted virus that causes approximately 25% of head and neck cancers, including oral cancer. At our dental practice in St. Louis, we use a tool called a VELscope® for oral cancer screening. It’s a blue-spectrum light that highlights any unusual cells in the tissues in your mouth. (It’s well tested, safe, and approved by the World Health Organization.) If we see anything unusual, we’ll take a sample with a Brush Test® and send it to a specialized laboratory for examination. If you’ve been avoiding checkups, why not call our dental office at now? Information and prevention is key to your dental health, as well as your overall health!
Lucy Beaman Hobbs, the first woman to receive a Doctor of Dentistry degree, was quite the trailblazer. Her difficult journey of success inspired more women to get their degree. When Hobbs first applied to the Eclectic Medical School in Cincinnati she was rejected, and the college suggested she apply to dental school instead. She was rejected from Ohio’s program as well, but this time she remained determined to achieve her goal. She was offered the opportunity to train alongside other professional dentists–including Ohio College of Dental Surgery’s dean of students, Jonathan Taft. Eventually, she did what many people chose to do at the time and opened up her own practice where she performed dental work even without a license or official degree (not something we’d recommend to anyone nowadays, but not an uncommon practice at the time). Her practice in Iowa was very profitable and highly regarded. So much so in fact, that the Iowa State Dental Society admitted her as a member. A decision that soon later inspired Ohio College to change their minds. They admitted Hobbs, and in recognition of the work she had already shown herself well capable of doing, they expedited her coursework. She graduated with her Doctorate of Dental surgery after only one year. Hobbs later married, taught her husband dentistry, and they opened their own practice in Kansas. Hobbs worked as a dentist, and a women’s rights advocate until she died in 1910. Uncompromising, intelligent, and fearless Hobbs remains one of the most inspiring dentists in history!
Dental appointments aren't just for women! The men in your life also need to visit the dentist regularly. Here's why. To prevent tooth decay Men are less likely to take care of their oral health than women. However, this doesn't mean that men don't have teeth at all! In fact, one report estimates that as many as 45% of men have some form of gum disease. And although there are different kinds of gum disease, it's usually caused by poor oral hygiene. This means that men should commit to brushing and flossing every day in order to prevent cavities, which can lead to tooth loss and even the need for expensive dental implants down the road. Another reason to see your dentist is for routine exams and cleanings. During your exam, your hygienist will clean your teeth and assess the health of your teeth and gums for any signs and symptoms of decay or disease. If he finds a problem, he can help you correct it before it causes major damage. After an exam, your mouth will feel clean and fresh — which just might motivate you to take good care of your smile between visits. To prevent gum disease When it comes to taking care of yourself, your teeth and gums should be at the top of the list. Unfortunately, most people don't put their teeth a main priority until something goes wrong – like the development of periodontal disease. This condition is caused when plaque and tartar are allowed to build up below the gum line. Once it hardens into place, bacteria can accumulate and cause an infection in the gums that can become severe over time. If left untreated, periodontitis can cause your gums to recede away from the teeth and expose tooth roots. These roots are very sensitive and can be extremely painful if exposed for too long. Not only can this condition cause tooth loss, but it can lead to other serious conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer's, and cancer. Fortunately, seeing your dentist regularly can help manage the risk of gum disease. Your dentist will professionally clean your teeth and remove the buildup of plaque and tartar. They can also discuss with you the best way to maintain good oral health at home. Be sure to visit your dentist twice a year for cleanings and checkups, as they will be able to catch any early signs of periodontal issues before they progress too far! Aesthetic dentistry Your husband may not tell you this, but he's thought about how his smile looks. It probably crossed his mind that someone might not think he was as attractive as he could be because of his teeth. Fortunately, cosmetic dentistry can give him the smile of his dreams. Maybe that's why he always has that goofy smile on his face! Wouldn't you like to have your husband smiling like that more often? What he can expect with cosmetic dentistry is whiter and brighter teeth after professional cleanings. He'll also enjoy getting his teeth aligned so they aren't crooked or gapped. If he has missing teeth, he can replace them with beautiful dental implants that look completely natural. All of these services enhance the appearance of his smile and help boost his confidence. It's likely that he will show off his new smile a lot more. That's something to smile about!
Discolored teeth can be a result of poor dental hygiene, habits such as smoking and drinking, teeth trauma, and certain medications. Listed below are the top 4 reasons for discolored teeth. Tobacco Smoking and chewing tobacco products can stain your teeth and make your smile dull. In fact, smokers are three times more likely to have discolored teeth than non-smokers. This is because of nicotine, tar, and other chemicals found in cigarettes that cling to the teeth and cause stains. In addition to staining your teeth, smoking can also increase your risk of gum disease and oral cancer. If you’re a smoker who’s unhappy with the color of his or her smile, talk to your dentist about options for whitening treatments, or consider making an appointment with your primary care doctor to discuss smoking cessation programs. If you smoke or use other forms of tobacco and want to have a whiter and brighter smile, there’s still hope! There are many things you can do to help whiten your teeth after quitting. These include the following: * Drink water to wash away plaque * Brush twice a day for at least two minutes each time using a soft-bristled toothbrush and a toothpaste with the ADA Seal of Acceptance * Use floss to remove plaque from between your teeth daily * Schedule professional cleanings and oral exams at your dentist’s office every six months * Try an oral rinse or mouth wash each day to help keep your mouth clean and fresh * Quit all tobacco use immediately to have a better chance of getting a brighter smile over time Foods & Drinks When consumed, certain foods and drinks can cause your teeth to discolor or stain, making them appear yellowed and dull. This is because they leave behind particles that can settle on the teeth surface and cause discoloration over time. Some of the most common foods and drinks that can cause tooth staining include: * Red wines * Soft drinks * Coffee * Tea * Berries * Sauces * Vinegar-based salad dressing * Curry To combat and prevent tooth staining from foods and beverages, it is recommended that you drink them using a straw and brush your teeth after consuming them. This can help to remove the food debris from the surface of your teeth so that they don’t cause stains. Additionally, you should avoid brushing your teeth immediately after eating or drinking because acidic substances in these foods can wear down your enamel. Instead, you should wait about one hour before brushing your teeth. Poor Oral Hygiene We already covered that poor oral hygiene can lead to yellowed teeth due to plaque buildup but did you know that improper brushing can also lead to discolored teeth? Brushing your teeth too aggressively can cause the gums to recede. Once those tissues are exposed, they become vulnerable to staining. When the gum line is receding from your tooth enamel, it makes the yellow dentin underneath much more visible. Your dentist can help you restore your smile with cosmetic procedures such as veneers or teeth whitening strips and treatments. Tooth Trauma If your teeth had trauma due to a fall, or a sporting accident, it could lead to teeth discoloration. Tooth trauma may lead to the teeth appearing darkened or gray.
Sugar has long been linked to tooth decay. But sugar-free gum isn’t off the hook, either. Chewing gum made with sugar substitutes, like xylitol, can cause cavities as well. Xylitol is an artificial sweetener that’s found in many sugar-free gums, mints, and candies. It’s also an ingredient in some toothpaste and mouthwashes. EXPLAIN XYLITOL Xylitol is a naturally occurring sugar substitute that is found in the fibers of many fruits and vegetables, including berries and oats. It’s often used as an alternative to white table sugar and can reduce the risk of tooth decay and cavities. However, it’s important to remember that it can still contribute to decay if it remains on your teeth for too long or if it gets into your mouth when it’s not being actively cleaned off, so it’s still important to practice good oral hygiene habits in conjunction with using any type of sweetener. EXPLAIN SUGAR Sugar is a specific type of carbohydrate that is found in a variety of foods, drinks, and condiments. It has also been used as a natural sweetener to prevent decay. However, like anything else, too much sugar can be dangerous to your teeth as well. One of the most harmful sugars for your teeth is known as fructose. This tends to be found in fruits and other sweet foods like baked goods, candy, and even soda. When you eat foods that contain a lot of fructose, the bacteria in your mouth consume it and produce acids as a result. These acids are harmful to the enamel on your teeth and cause tooth decay and cavities. Other sugary foods that can harm your teeth include sports drinks, energy drinks, fruit juices, dried fruits, and syrups. All of these contain high amounts of sugar and should be avoided or consumed in moderation. XYLITOL VS. SUGAR While xylitol and sugar are both carbohydrates, there are some important differences between the two. First, the sugar used in most foods today is a highly processed and refined sugar called sucrose that lacks nutritional value. In contrast, xylitol is a naturally occurring substance found in fruits and vegetables that has a positive impact on dental health when eaten in moderation. Second, excess consumption of refined sugar can lead to weight gain, diabetes, and even cardiovascular disease. On the other hand, adding a few pieces of xylitol-based candy to your trick-or-treat bag on All Hallow’s Eve is a healthy choice that may even prevent cavities if done in moderation. At your next dentist appointment, be sure to ask about the health benefits of your toothpaste and whether it contains fluoride, a natural mineral found in water sources around the world. Fluoride helps strengthen tooth enamel and makes teeth up to five times more resistant to acid attacks from plaque bacteria. To learn more, contact Healthy Smiles of Saint Louis at 4224 Watson Rd, St. Louis, MO 63109, or call (314) 832-1366.
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