During National Women’s Health Week, it’s important to talk about how women have special oral health needs throughout different phases of their lives. Changes in female hormone levels during puberty, menstruation, pregnancy and menopause have an impact on how gums react to plaque in the mouth, making them more susceptible to gingivitis. The gums may become red and swollen causing them to bleed a lot. Gingivitis, or gum disease, has been linked to a wide variety of health issues. Because gum disease is a bacterial infection and can enter the bloodstream research shows that it may have in impact on: heart disease, stroke, diabetes, respiratory problems and pregnancy outcomes.
Gingivitis is a common oral condition associated with pregnancy. It occurs in over 60 percent of all women who are pregnant. As with puberty and menstruation, the increase in hormones magnifies the gum tissue’s response to bacterial plaque. Make sure to see your dentist early in your pregnancy, as untreated gum disease and tooth decay can put you and your baby at risk for infection. When left untreated, gum disease can lead to advanced periodontal disease which has been linked to a higher rate of low birth weight babies as well as premature births.
Menopause can also bring about different oral health changes including pain, a burning sensation in the oral tissue, changes in taste and dry mouth. Saliva naturally cleanses the teeth, rinsing off cavity causing bacteria. With dry mouth, saliva flow decreases and the risk for developing cavities goes up. If you experience dry mouth, talk with your dentist about different remedies available to you.
During menopause women experience a reduction of estrogen which can bring an increased risk of developing osteoporosis, reducing bone mass and strength, and potentially leading to losing bone in your jaw. This can cause an increased chance of tooth loss. Your dentist or doctor might recommend getting the right amount of Vitamin D and calcium, not smoking and avoiding excessive alcohol consumption.
During these times of hormonal changes, it is very important that women maintain extremely good oral hygiene habits, eat a well balanced diet, keep up a good level of physical activity, do not smoke, and see their dentist and hygienist on a regular basis.