What’s going on in our bodies can be reflected in our mouths, and vice versa. That’s why we decided to take a look at the important connection between women’s health and oral health. In our three-part guide, we’ll discuss puberty, pregnancy and menopause, and how you can ensure your teeth stay in tip-top condition throughout these life cycles.
Hormones and women’s dental health
You might be surprised to learn that as a woman, your hormones can affect your teeth. Generally, high levels of oestrogen and progesterone can cause greater levels of blood flow to the gums. That means there’s a tendency for gums to become more sensitive to irritants such as plaque and bacteria. In fact, women are even more likely to develop periodontal disease.
What are the effects?
As a girl reaches puberty, the rush of hormones her body experiences can cause her to develop red, swollen or even bleeding gums. These can be the first signs of mild gum disease, known as gingivitis. It’s also common for girls to experience canker sores, which are small ulcers in the mouth, such as on the tongue, inside of the cheeks or the roof of the mouth. They may tingle and make eating difficult, and they can be white with a reddish edge.
If you notice your teeth or gums tend to be painful or swollen around the time of your period, you’re not going crazy. This is known as ‘menstruation gingivitis’ and these are common symptoms for some women. They usually kick in 1-2 days prior to your period starting and should calm down once your monthly cycle has begun. Some people also notice swollen salivary glands at this time of the month.
So, if hormones are to blame for triggering dental problems, can hormonal contraception play a part?
Some think that the higher levels of progesterone in some oral contraception can cause an overreaction by the gums to plaque, meaning more sensitivity and bleeding.
But according to research, this was more of a concern in the past and the levels in birth control used today are not high enough to cause complications. Nevertheless, inform your dentist and doctor if you’re using hormonal birth control since they may alter the effectiveness of some medications. It may also make you more susceptible to a condition known as ‘dry socket’ after tooth removal.
So, what can you do?
Practicing good dental health from an early age can help, which means using fluoride toothpaste twice a day. When you have sensitive teeth and gums, use a soft-bristled toothbrush. It’s also helpful to get into a good habit with dental floss, as removing the trigger of plaque from around the gumline of the teeth is key. To ensure you don’t irritate your already swollen gums, you can use a floss designed for sensitive teeth and gums that expands to glide easily between.
If you’re not sure whether your hormones are behind your swollen gums, keep a dental journal. You can jot down any discomfort you experience along with other circumstances such as beginning your period or whether you recently had an illness. Regular visits to the dental hygienist and your dentist can also help you get a good clean and track any changes in your mouth.
Next month we’ll discuss how pregnancy affects your teeth including tips on how to keep them strong. In the meantime, book your next Notting Hill dentist appointment at Number 18 Dental today.