Dental Health Week 2016 – Women and oral health

This week is Dental Health Week. While your dental health is of utmost importance every day of every week, this week is a great opportunity to highlight its importance. This year the Australian Dental Association has chosen ‘Women and oral health’ as the theme of Dental Health Week. Did you know that females have some oral health concerns which are specifically linked their hormones? Let’s take a closer look.

Oral health during puberty

Everyone knows there’s a lot going on in a teenager’s body during puberty. But what you might not realise is that all those extra sex hormones, such as estrogen and progesterone, which are suddenly floating around in an adolescent girl’s body can actually have an effect on their oral health.

Estrogen and progesterone cause your body to increase the blood flow to your gums, which can then make them more sensitive to plaque and easily become agitated by stray food particles. This is what’s often known as puberty gingivitis, and it all adds up to red and swollen gums which have a tendency to bleed more easily.

Thankfully, puberty gingivitis is easily treated by simply keeping a good active maintenance routine; brushing and flossing daily, and attending regular check-ups with your dentist so they can attend to any little issues before they become bigger (and expensive!) issues.

Does menstruation affect your teeth and gums?

As we know, a woman’s body is pretty much ruled by hormones for most of their life. Sure, once you’re out of puberty you should find that your body settles down into the swing of things a little better, but every single month as your body progresses through its natural cycle, you’re being affected by hormones which can have varied effects on your teeth and gums.

Some women find that a few days before their period, they will experience gum soreness and swelling, and find they are more prone to bleeding. Others may even develop a temporary form of gingivitis which includes sores on the tongue and insides of the cheeks, as well as swollen gums. And some lucky women won’t experience any of this at all.

Regardless of how your mouth acts when it’s “that time of the month”, the best approach is to simply keep up your normal brushing and flossing regime. If it’s causing you extreme discomfort, though, it’s best to see your dentist for some extra help.

While we’re speaking about visiting the dentist; some recent studies have indicated it could be best to time certain dental treatments to your monthly cycle. For example, if you do suffer from inflammation of the gums around that time, you might want to time a professional clean to be about a week after your period ends, so as to avoid extra sensitivity.

Should my oral health routine change during pregnancy?

Pregnancy is another time of extreme hormonal upheaval for a woman, and most start to notice changes in their gums around 8 weeks gestation.

One common oral health issue during this time is “pregnancy gingivitis”. Although this is normally a temporary condition, it can weaken the tissue around your teeth, so it’s definitely not something you should ignore! Keep up your usual routine and be sure to maintain your regular trips to the dentist during this time.

A hallmark of pregnancy is the morning sickness so many women experience. This one can actually be quite damaging to your teeth as you’re bringing up stomach acid. While you’ll feel you want to brush away that awful taste immediately, it’s important to resist the urge as you could strip the enamel from your teeth if you do it within an hour, and cause irreversible damage to your teeth. We know, we know, it tastes awful and you want it gone! Instead of brushing right away, try chewing some gum, or rinse your mouth out with ¼ of a teaspoon of baking soda dissolved in a cup of warm water.

Other oral issues you may run into during pregnancy include dry mouth (xerostomia), and gingivostomatitis. Dry mouth leaves you with a reduced amount of saliva, which is a concern as it plays a key role in keeping decay at bay, while gingivostomatitis causes your gums to have a shiny appearance and bleed easily. The good news is both can be easily managed by your dentist.

If you’re suffering from the effects of the pregnancy hormonal rollercoaster, it’s best to make sure your dentist joins the list of people you regularly see during this time.

Does the pill affect your teeth and gums?

Thanks to the progesterone levels in oral contraceptives, some women can actually experience the “pregnancy gingivitis” we mentioned above simply because they are “on the pill”. Often this will be most pronounced in the first few months and then taper off, but if it gets worse, you may need to look at changing pills. Be sure to let your dentist know if you are using oral contraceptives.

Menopause and your oral health

Like most other stages of a woman’s life, the hormonal changes you’ll experience during menopause can bring on another batch of oral symptoms including changes to your sense of taste, dry mouth, inflamed gums, and even burning sensations.

Let’s start with burning mouth syndrome (BMS). In short, this can make everything taste a little odd – salty, peppery, sour, bitter, or metallic – and can cause more sensitivity than usual to hot and cold drinks and foods. It can also cause the inside of your mouth to feel like it’s burning or numb. This one is every bit as unpleasant as it sounds, but your dentist will be able to help you to manage it.

There’s a gum condition named after ‘the change of life’ too; menopausal gingivostomatitis typically causes your gums to have a shiny appearance and bleed easily. The good news is it’s easily managed.

Just like with pregnancy, you may also experience dry mouth during menopause. Again, this is a condition that can be managed quite easily, so let your dentist know if you’re experiencing this at all.

Another thing which can affect your teeth during menopause is osteoporosis. While it’s normally associated with the bones in your limbs, it can also affect the jawbone, which can lead to tooth loss and gum reduction.

Healthy mouth, healthy life

No matter what time of life you’re in, your dentist can help you through the hormonal rollercoaster! Your oral health is now well known to be one of the cornerstones of your overall health, so make sure you’re keeping it the best it can be!

At Coastal Dental Care, we believe that prevention is better than a cure, and we’re proud to provide high-quality care for each and every member of your family. If you would like to book an appointment to discuss your oral health needs, please contact us today.