Unlike men, women’s oral health can be significantly affected by the unique hormonal changes they experience throughout their lives.
In fact, according to the Office on Women’s Health, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, female hormones can lead to an increase in several dental issues. Women also are more susceptible to gum disease, cold sores and canker sores, as well as problems with dry mouth and changes in taste.
Women undergo hormonal changes at various stages in their lives. During these times, the risk of developing oral health problems is at its highest.
Effects of Puberty and Menstrual Hormones on Oral Health
During puberty, girls experience a surge in the production of the female hormones estrogen and progesterone.
This process can cause an increase in the blood flow to the gums, leading to more sensitivity. Consequently, the gum tissue reacts more strongly to irritation, including food particles and plaque. In fact, even regular tooth brushing and flossing can make the gums swell, redden, feel tender or bleed.
Increased levels of hormones during the menstrual cycle also make women prone to oral problems. Menstruation gingivitis can occur a day or two before menstruation, causing bleeding and swollen gums and canker sores inside the cheeks. In most cases, symptoms clear up shortly after the start of the menstrual cycle.
Effects of Birth Control and Pregnancy on Oral Health
Birth control pills may contain just progesterone or a combination of progesterone and estrogen. Altering the body’s levels of these hormones can cause oral health issues similar to those experienced in puberty: inflamed gums that may feel sore or bleed when irritated.
During pregnancy, women experience dramatic increases in the female hormones. This often results in a gum disease known as pregnancy gingivitis.
During pregnancy gingivitis, swelling, tenderness and bleeding in the gums occurs due to a reaction to dental plaque in the mouth. Because gum disease is incredibly common in pregnant women, we recommend frequent professional cleanings and a visit to the oral surgeon for an exam to reduce the risk of developing the condition.
Menopause Hormonal Changes and Oral Health
Women who are perimenopausal, menopausal or post-menopausal have reduced levels of estrogen. And progesterone production stops after the final menstrual period. These hormonal changes can result in problems such as a compromised sense of taste, greater sensitivity to hot and cold foods and burning sensations in the gum tissue.
Menopause-related hormonal changes also can cause a decrease in saliva flow, resulting in dry mouth. Dry mouth leads to several oral issues, including tooth decay, gum disease, mouth sores and difficulty chewing and swallowing.
For women experiencing any of these hormonal changes, regular exams and professional cleanings can help prevent oral health problems. In the greater Salt Lake City area, contact the professionals at Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery of Utah to schedule an appointment.
We are committed to a lifetime of good oral health for you and your family.