It’s not easy being a woman. The hormone fluctuations that women experience throughout their lives impacts many areas of their health, but one impact that often goes unnoticed is the impact on their gums. Hormones affect the amount of blood that is supplied to the gums, and they also make the body more sensitive to the toxins from plaque in the mouth. These changes weaken the gums and make women more susceptible to gum disease during periods of hormone level changes.
The increased level of hormones running through a woman’s body during puberty increases the blood that is circulated to the gums. This makes them more sensitive to irritants like food particles and plaque. As a result, they are more easily infected and commonly become swollen and tender.
Menstruation gingivitis occurs during the monthly cycle right before the period begins. Although it does not happen to all women, those that do have this condition may experience bleeding and swollen gums and sores on the inside of the cheek. This usually happens a couple of days before the period and should clear up once the period begins.
Some research has shown that women who have gum disease while pregnant are more likely to prematurely give birth to a baby that is too small. Although this research is not cited as conclusive or absolute, it is still a good idea to watch the health of your gums during pregnancy. Any infection is dangerous to the baby because the mother shares her (infected) blood with the baby. Because of the significant hormonal changes that occur throughout a pregnancy, it is a good idea to continue to visit your doctor and take all precautions against gum disease.
There are many things that have been seen to happen in the mouths of menopausal or postmenopausal women, again due to the changes in the body’s hormone levels. Some have experienced dry mouth, gum pain, burning gum tissues and an altered taste for things that are peppery, salty or sour. Dry mouth, a common ailment in menopausal and postmenopausal women, is highly detrimental to gum health because it reduces the amount of saliva that is produced. Saliva is the mouth’s natural cleaning and repairing agent, and without sufficient amounts of it, bacteria can more easily infect and attack the teeth and gums. A few women have also experienced menopausal gingivostomatitis, which has symptoms that include dry and shiny gums, bleeding gums, and discolored gums.
Keep in mind that these unfortunate effects of hormone changes make it so that women are more vulnerable to gum disease, but it does not make gum disease inevitable to them. With proper care of their oral health and heightened awareness of any symptoms of gum irritation, women can come out of every situation gum disease free. Here are some reminders for maintaining healthy gums:
- Keep brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing once a day.
- Use a toothpaste that contains fluoride to fight plaque.
- Visit your dentist every six months.
- Eat a balanced diet.
- Avoid sugary and starchy drinks and snacks.
- Stay hydrated.
- Talk to your dentist about whether an antimicrobial mouth rinse would be beneficial for you.
- If you have dry mouth, ask your dentist about treatments. There are also over the counter products available that address this issue.
Mina Tadros is the founder and owner of Tadros Dental, a dental clinic based in Houston, Texas. Dr. Tadros holds passion for and expertise in general, cosmetic, orthodotic, and restorative dentistry.