Women are affected by hormonal changes throughout life. Hormonal changes occur during puberty, menstruation, pregnancy and menopause. Hormone levels are also affected by birth control pills, injections and IUDs that release certain hormones to prevent pregnancy. Hormonal fluctuation is inevitable and can affect mood, weight, sex drive and overall health. However, it can also increase the risk of developing oral health problems.
How Do Hormones Affect Oral Health?
Changing hormonal levels, particularly oestrogen and progesterone, can affect gum health and occur during puberty, menstruation and pregnancy. The increase in these hormones increases the blood flow to the gums. As a result, the gums become more sensitive to the toxins produced by bacteria found in dental plaque. The increased sensitivity causes the gums to become red, swollen and more tender, so they are more at risk of bleeding when you brush and floss. The problem can be particularly noticeable during pregnancy.
Pregnancy and Oral Health
During pregnancy, the increased sensitivity of gums can lead to a condition called pregnancy gingivitis. The problem can be worsened if a woman has gum disease before becoming pregnant. While pregnancy gingivitis should clear up once the baby is born, it needs careful monitoring. This is essential to prevent gingivitis from worsening or causing permanent damage to the gums and oral health.
Menopause and Oral Health
When women go through menopause, hormonal levels decline. This can cause a condition called xerostomia or dry mouth, where insufficient saliva is produced to keep the mouth clean, fresh, moist and comfortable. A lack of saliva can increase the risk of dental problems, including tooth decay and gum disease. At the same time, women going through menopause can experience a reduction in bone density which may impact their jawbone and overall dental health.
How Dentists Can Help
We provide tailored dental care for everyone visiting our dental practice regardless of age and which is carefully adjusted over time and can accommodate changes in hormonal levels. It is just one reason why we always ask if there have been any changes to your oral or general health and recommend regular checkups and hygiene appointments.
If you are pregnant, we strongly suggest seeing our dentist as soon as possible. Ideally, we would like to conduct a prepregnancy checkup, but we realise this isn’t always feasible. During pregnancy, we like to monitor your oral health carefully, looking for changes like pregnancy gingivitis that may require additional treatment. For example, we might suggest you see our hygienist more frequently than normal, perhaps every three or four months rather than every six months. This is because getting rid of plaque and tartar buildup helps control the number of bacteria producing the toxins that can inflame and infect gums. It is a simple way to help you maintain good dental health during pregnancy.
It is a similar situation for older women going through menopause who are finding it is affecting their oral health. More frequent checkups and hygiene appointments can help control problems like xerostomia, reducing the impact on dental health.
With the right dental care combined with good oral hygiene and a healthy lifestyle, we can help you maintain strong teeth and gums throughout life.