Were you aware that women’s oral health needs change and different stages throughout their life? In fact, women have special oral health requirements during the unique phases in their lives because of the unique hormonal changes they encounter. These hormonal changes not only affect the blood supply to the gum tissue, but also the body’s response to the toxins that result from plaque buildup. As a result of these changes, women are more prone to the development of periodontal disease at certain stages of their lives, as well as to other oral health problems.
At what stages in a woman’s life is she more susceptible to periodontal disease and other oral health problems?
Changes in female hormone levels during puberty, menstruation, pregnancy and menopause exaggerate the way gums react to plaque. There are five stages in a women’s life during which changes in hormone levels make them more susceptible to oral health problems: during puberty, the monthly menstruation cycle, when using oral contraceptives, throughout pregnancy and during menopause.
- During puberty: Hormonal fluctuations during your menstrual cycle can lead to oral health conditions such as swollen and sensitive gums, inflamed saliva glands as well as mouth sores. It’s important to be extra vigilant about following your daily oral care routine during this period of time (i.e. brushing and flossing after every meal).
- During menstruation: The increase in progesterone that occurs during the menstrual cycle means that some women experience oral changes that can include bright red swollen gums, swollen salivary glands, development of canker sores, or bleeding gums. Known as “menstruation gingivitis” it usually occurs a day or two before the start of the period and clears up shortly after the period has started.
- If you’re taking contraceptives: Long-term use of oral contraceptives can lead to gingivitis, as most contraceptives contain progesterone or estrogen. Additionally, women who take oral contraceptives are twice as susceptible to develop dry socket.
- If you’re pregnant: Hormone levels change considerably during pregnancy. Studies show that an increased level of progesterone makes you more susceptible to bacterial plaque, causing gingivitis which is most noticeable during the second to eighth month of pregnancy.
- If you’re going through menopause: Numerous oral changes can occur as a consequence of advanced age. Studies show that many women in their advanced years experience dry mouth, increased levels of dental plaque, inflamed gums, change in taste buds and oral discomfort (for some it’s almost a burning sensation in the mouth). Additionally, there have been studies that suggest a link between osteoporosis and bone loss in the jaw.
Women can maintain their oral health through good oral health habits like brushing, flossing, regularly visiting the dentist and following a healthy diet. You can find additional information on women’s health and periodontal at the American Academy of Periodontology.