Oral hygiene is important for everyone. However, for women it plays an even bigger role in health due to fluctuating hormone levels throughout a woman’s life.
Changes in hormone levels can cause swelling and other changes to the gums. Medications such as oral contraceptives (birth control pill), HRT and other prescription and non-prescription medications can also affect the mouth and gums.
How does this effect the health of the mouth?
Tender gums that bleed and are aggravated by changes in the hormone balance have an increased chance for bacteria and therefore plaque formation.
Plaque is a common cause of tooth decay as well as gum disease. If gums and teeth are not taken care of to a high standard, the plaque can eventually harden to what is known as calculus or tartar. This can damage the gums further and lead to inflammation of the gums known as gingivitis. If left untreated this can then lead to periodontitis which causes serious damage to the gum and even the bone that holds our teeth in. Periodontitis is responsible for the majority of tooth loss in people over 30.
Due to the surge of hormones during pregnancy gums can often become tender and bleed easily. This can start as early as 12 weeks and continue into the third trimester. If this is something that occurs, a visit to your dentist is recommended. If you are planning on becoming pregnant, it is always a good idea to see your dentist so you can start your pregnancy with good gingival health.
Pregnant women can experience a pregnancy epulis which is a benign (non-cancerous) growth caused by inflamed swollen gums. They generally require no treatment, however if they are interfering with brushing, flossing or eating, a visit to your dentist is a good idea. The pregnancy epulis often shrinks again after the pregnancy.
Damage from stomach acid
Vomiting, nausea and acid reflux are quite common during pregnancy. This can lead to erosion of enamel on the teeth. Rinsing the mouth with water is helpful as well as using products available from the dentist like Tooth Mousse® which can help fortify and strengthen the teeth.
Women experience a fluctuation in hormone levels throughout the month and gums are more likely to become sensitive to irritants at certain times. Even toothpaste or cold drinks can sometimes lead to sensitivity. Gingivitis that is already present can worsen along with the other symptoms that occur during PMS.
Not as openly talked about as some other topics, but of great importance is when there is a decline in hormone levels. Dry mouth is very common with the onset of Menopause, as are other complications. Bad tastes in the mouth and sore and sensitive gums may occur. All of this can be helped by a good oral health care regime. Visiting your dentist and letting them know that you are experiencing any of these issues is an important first step to combating these challenges.
Another common issue associated with Menopause is osteoporosis. Woman are at risk of losing bone mass as their hormone levels decline. The major concern with this is risk of broken bones, but it also contributes to thinning of the jaw bone. Our dentists and oral hygiene therapists can help you monitor this. Talk to your doctor about what you can do to help combat osteoporosis.
Both men and women can struggle with eating disorders. They are very complex conditions and should be treated with care. Although most common in younger women, it is actually experienced by women and men of all ages.
With so many other things going on it may not be obvious at first the damage that stomach acids can cause to the teeth and gums. Disorders such as Anorexia Nervosa or Bulimia Nervosa are where you either aren’t eating adequately or you are eating and then vomiting. How this affects the teeth can be quite severe. Stomach acid erodes the teeth at a rapid rate and weakens the actual structure and integrity of the teeth. Teeth often change colour to a grey or brownish hue after repeated exposure to the stomach acid. Brushing and mouth rinsing cannot neutralise the effects. It is important to inform your dentist if you are experiencing this as they can recommend products to help combat these issues. It is also a good idea to speak to someone who works in the field of eating disorders. As with all things we do, there is no judgment and we maintain complete discretion in sharing personal information about our patients.