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Dental Care for Women's Health

By: Ian Murnaghan BSc (hons), MSc - Updated: 25 Jan 2011 | comments*Discuss
Women's Health Dentist Dental Oral

Women have many unique needs and dental care is one of them. This is because women may be more likely to suffer from certain oral health problems, primarily because of changes in their hormones throughout life.

Hormones don’t just influence the blood supply to gums but they can also affect the response of the body to toxins that are released from the build-up of plaque. This can mean a woman is more likely to suffer from periodontal disease during specific times in her life, along with a number of other dental problems.

How Puberty Affects Oral Health

Puberty is a time when a woman’s hormones are significantly changing. The hormones oestrogen and progesterone increase the flow of blood to the gums and also impact how they respond to plaque. This can result in gums becoming inflamed and irritated. They may also show signs of bleeding during flossing or tooth-brushing.

Monthly Changes to Hormones

After puberty, normal monthly fluctuations in hormones can impact oral health. In particular, the increase in progesterone that occurs can cause gum irritation and swelling of the salivary glands. Some women even experience gingivitis a couple of days prior to the beginning of their period. After a woman’s period starts, the symptoms will usually disappear.

Pregnancy and Oral Health

Pregnancy is another time when hormone levels can fluctuate a great deal. As progesterone goes up, gum disease can occur virtually anytime during pregnancy. Additional dental cleanings may be necessary during this time, particularly in the second or third trimesters. This can help to prevent the chances of experiencing pregnancy gingivitis.

Dental Problems and Oral Contraceptives

Birth control pills are another issue when it comes to oral health problems. As they affect hormones, gum inflammation can occur. Women who are taking birth control pills that have progesterone may find that gums become inflamed due to their body’s excessive response to the toxins released from plaque. It is generally a good idea to let your dentist know if you are taking birth control pills, as more gentle cleaning and preventative maintenance may be needed to prevent decay.

How Menopause Affects Teeth and Gums

Menopause is perhaps one of the most challenging times for women, hormonally-speaking. Many changes can occur during these years, both from natural hormonal fluctuations as women age and also as a result of treatments they may be taking to manage menopause symptoms.

Taste may be affected, as well as increased tooth sensitivity to hot and cold drinks. Decreased salivary flow can lead to dry mouth, which increases the risk of tooth decay. Another issue is that the loss of oestrogen increases a woman’s risk for osteoporosis – low bone density. Where it occurs in the jaw, tooth loss can be the result. Often, receding gums are a sign of bone loss that occurs in the jaw, and they also leave teeth more susceptible and exposed to decay.

Good Dental Care for Life

Women have the added consideration of hormonal changes when it comes to dental health. These changes are a natural and normal part of life but can cause problems for gum tissue and teeth. If you continue to partake in a consistent programme of oral hygiene and visit your dentist regularly, however, you have a better chance of enjoying healthy teeth and gums for life.

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