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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