There have long been tidal and lunar analogies in regard to the wellbeing of women. Indeed, women’s oral health changes with hormonal ones asks no giant leap of faith. Even that male dominated bastion, science, is prepared to admit that women are different in terms of their physiology and health. For a long time women were studiously ignored when it came to collecting data about human oral health but things started to shift toward the end of the 20C. Hormones had long been treated with suspicion by male scientists, as if they were unreliable things like the mood swings they engendered. The tides can be tricky sometimes, just ask the Ancient Mariner.
“About, about, in reel and rout
The death-fires danced at night;
The water, like a witch’s oils,
Burnt green, and blue and white.
And some in dreams assurèd were
Of the Spirit that plagued us so;
Nine fathom deep s/he had followed us
From the land of mist and snow.”
Women’s hormones play upon the temperament and health of every woman. From hot to cold and every climate in-between can they dance beneath the skin. Coleridge may not have been writing about hormones but his language captures their effect in a most sea worthy way.
Hormonal Changes Affecting Women’s Oral Health
“Women have increased sensitivity to some oral health problems because of the unique hormonal changes they experience throughout different stages of their lives. Hormonal changes can impact the blood supply to the gums and can modify how the body responds to plaque buildup. These changes can lead to gingivitis and periodontal disease — which is infection and inflammation of the gums and bone that surround and support the teeth.”
Puberty, pregnancy, and menopause are when the sex steroid hormones are most prevalent in the lives of women. These are powerful hormonal chemical changes in the body and they can have noticeable effects upon your oral health. The increase in estrogen and progesterone ramps up the likelihood of inflammation in the gums. This can promote bacterial growth or plaque build-up, which causes mouth ulcers and bleeding gums. Gingivitis is very common during these periods.
Pregnancy & Oral Health
The interconnectedness of things within our bodies and the holistic nature of health are never more clearly seen than in the example of women. They are the givers and carriers of new life. These powerful but cyclical biological gifts take centre stage at the most opportune times of life. There is a cost to these things and a sacrificial element for the mother’s body and health. Due respect must be acknowledged to women and by women themselves during these momentous times.
“Women may be more susceptible to oral health problems because of the unique hormonal changes they experience. Hormones affect not only the blood supply to the gum tissue but also the body’s response to the toxins (poisons) 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.”
Gum infection is a common occurrence during pregnancy for many women. It happens at a rate of around 60% to 75% of all pregnant women. It is highly recommended that you see your dentist prior to getting pregnant, if it is a planned pregnancy, or as soon as possible if it is not. Minimising the dangers for mother and baby from the hormonal changes causing oral health issues is a smart and safer course of action to take. Your dentist is trained in dentistry for women and their hormonal cycles.
Oral Health & The Menstrual Cycle
During the menstrual cycle, hormonal changes can result in some women developing bright red swollen gums, swollen salivary glands, sores, or bleeding gums. Menstrual gingivitis often occurs a couple of days prior to their period and goes away just after the period has started.
Periodontal Disease & Low Weight Babies
Periodontal disease can be an indicator of greater risk of having a preterm and/or low birth weight baby, according to studies into this. Good oral health is better for mother and baby during pregnancy and afterwards.
Dry Mouth & Dental Problems
Dry mouth is a real problem for oral health and can be a common issue for pregnant women. Diet and getting enough fluids is a major component of a healthy pregnancy. Regular sips of water will help with alleviating dry mouth. Keeping saliva levels up promotes better dental health for teeth and gums.
Birth Control & Gum Disease
The use of the birth control pill, which has been a great liberator for women from being left holding the baby, is, however, not perfect. Those birth control pills, which contain progesterone, increase the levels of this hormone in the body. The downside of this is the increased likelihood of developing inflamed gums.
Thus, your dentist is best served by being made aware of your cycle and whether you are taking birth control.
Menopause & Your Oral Health
“Women in perimenopause and menopause are more likely to develop bleeding gums and other symptoms of gum disease for one simple reason — inflammation. But it works the other way around, too — poor oral hygiene that leads to bleeding gums can activate and elevate the inflammatory response so that inflammation becomes systemic. This sets the stage for developing hormonal imbalance and menopausal symptoms.”
– Women’s Health Network
Dry mouth and oral sensitivity can occur during menopause. There is, also, a greater chance of developing osteoporosis, which is reduced bone mass and strength. This can impact upon the health of teeth and cause tooth loss.
Things You can Do To Reduce the Negative Impacts To Your Oral Health
A healthy diet is always a step in the right direction when it comes to better health. Drinking plenty of pure water is another perennial when it comes to oral health. Stopping smoking and reducing alcohol consumption are other smart health moves to take. Generally, becoming more sensitive to the state of play inside your mouth and treating your body more like a temple will aid your oral health. Talk to your dentist about caring for your teeth and gums. Abiding by some expert guidance in this regard will serve you well for longer.
“S/he prayeth best, who loveth best
All things both great and small;
For the dear God who loveth us,
Made and loveth all.”
– The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (text of 1834) by Samuel Taylor Coleridge