It’s part of being a woman – you deal with all kinds of hormonal ups and downs during your lifetime. You’ve probably read about a number different ways that these hormone changes can affect your mental and physical health, but here’s one that might have passed you by – they can impact oral health as well.
How? What should you watch for? What can you do?
In this post, we’re going to explain how these changes impact your mouth and how you – and your dentist – can minimize the effects and stay healthy.
When Women Need to Pay Particular Attention to Their Hormones to Avoid Oral Health Problems
Good oral health care is always important. That being said, there are five main times in a woman’s life when it’s even more important to pay more attention to oral health.
When Puberty Starts
As a girl starts having periods, her whole body changes, including her mouth. She may notice that her gums are swollen and red during certain times of her monthly cycles. Stress can also cause painful, yet harmless, canker sores to develop.
Regular brushing and flossing is important. Teach your daughter to spend time every morning and evening attending to her oral health. If she has orthodontic appliances, it’s even more crucial to practice good cleaning habits to prevent tooth decay.
During Monthly Cycles
Women who are on their monthly cycle experience a surge of estrogen and progesterone. This increases blood flow to the gums, which can make your gums more sensitive and easily irritated.
When your gums are sensitive, you may notice bleeding when you brush, canker sores, or swollen glands. If these problems don’t subside after you have your period, check with your dentist to rule out any other oral health issues.
Also, you need to make sure to continue to take care of your gums even while these issues are occurring. If you do not, they can develop gum disease, a condition that can allow bacteria and plaque to build up on your teeth – and even enter your blood stream. If left untreated, you can experience tooth decay, bone loss in your jaw, and tooth loss.
Fortunately, gum disease is preventable and can even be reversed if caught early. If you notice that your gums are continually inflamed or bleeding, schedule an appointment with your dentist.
Additionally, if you notice that you fall into a regular pattern of swollen gums and tooth sensitivity, make sure to schedule your dental cleanings after that week is over. You’ll reduce the bleeding and swelling by having dental appointments at a less sensitive time of the month.
When Taking Birth Control Pills
If you use birth control pills, it’s important to know two key ways their use could affect your oral health.
First, if your dentist needs to write a prescription for oral treatments, make sure to tell them that you are taking birth control pills. Certain prescriptions could reduce the effectiveness of your birth control.
Second, if your dentist says that you need a tooth extraction, you may be at an elevated risk for dry socket if you are taking birth control pills. By telling your dentist that you are taking the pills before the extraction, he or she can monitor your condition more closely and offer alternative treatments.
When you are pregnant, your hormones are raging and changing every day. Some women develop gum disease during pregnancy due to hormone surges, particularly between 4-36 weeks of gestation. You can limit your risk for gum disease during pregnancy by brushing twice per day and flossing once per day.
It’s also important to eat a balanced diet, rich in vegetables and lean proteins, during pregnancy. By cutting back on sugars, acidic drinks, and carbohydrates, you will do good for your baby, your oral health, and your overall health.
Also important to note: while dental cleanings are completely safe during pregnancy, you should be sure to let your dentist know that you are or may be pregnant at your regular checkups. You will be allowed to skip the X-ray screening in most cases to keep your baby safe.
While Experiencing Menopause
A woman experiences many hormonal shifts during menopause, including ones that can wreak havoc on her oral health. If you notice increased sensitivity, dry mouth, a changing sense of taste, or burning sensations, they are likely related to menopause.
Dry mouth in particular poses a special risk. If you don’t have enough saliva to help rinse your teeth, you could develop tooth decay. Untreated tooth decay can lead to both tooth and bone loss.
You can treat dry mouth yourself by drinking plenty of water, eating ice chips, sucking on sugar-free candy, and using an over-the-counter spray to increase saliva production. Your dentist can also prescribe mouth rinses and special toothpaste to help prevent tooth decay.
Not sure whether or not your hormones are impacting your dental health? Talk to your dentist about what you’re experiencing and how your teeth and mouth look the next time you visit.