By: Dr. Elizabeth Eggert
As we touched on in our last post, the fluctuation of a woman’s hormones throughout the many seasons of her life greatly impacts the likelihood of developing gum disease and other serious health conditions. At Eggert Family Dentistry, we want to educate you on the subject so you have the tools you need to achieve optimal dental and overall wellness. Let’s take a more in-depth look at the role hormones play in a woman’s dental health throughout her life.
During puberty, a teenage girl may complain of red, swollen and bleeding gums and even an increase in canker sores. This is perfectly normal and is caused by an increase in estrogen and progesterone which cause an increase in blood flow to the gums. On account of increased blood flow, the gums can become more sensitive and irritated and more prone to plaque and bacteria. In addition to regular dental recare appointments, flossing once a day and brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste is highly beneficial. It will help thoroughly clean the teeth and gums and keep plaque and bacteria from building up and causing problems.
Leading up to their monthly cycle, many women experience oral irritation. These symptoms should subside after menstruation stops and include swollen, tender, bleeding gums and cankers sores – very similar to what the teenagers experience. Again, consistent brushing, flossing and fluoride use will help ward off gum disease and consequent health problems.
Pregnancy is another season of a woman’s life when hormone levels surge, oftentimes causing pregnancy gingivitis – a mild form of gum disease. In addition to regular brushing and flossing, dental visits during pregnancy are not only safe but they are incredibly beneficial. Women are particularly sensitive to pregnancy gingivitis between months 2-8 of pregnancy. This is a great window of time to come in to Eggert Family Dentistry for a recare appointment.
Menopause is yet another season of vast hormonal changes in a woman’s body. However, instead of an increase in hormone levels, menopause marks a sharp decrease in the production of estrogen. Two of the most common hormonally induced changes during this time are dry mouth and bone loss.
Dry mouth: Saliva cleanses the mouth of cavity and gum disease-causing bacteria. During menopause, when a woman experiences dry mouth, bacteria can more easily build up and can increase her risk of developing cavities and gum disease. Sucking on sugar-free candy, drinking plenty of water and using over-the-counter mouth spray can help combat dry mouth and promote dental health.
Bone loss: The decrease in estrogen levels during menopause can result in bone loss, even bone loss in the jaw. One telltale sign of bone loss affecting the jaw is receding gums. When gums recede, more of the tooth is exposed and the risk of cavities and tooth decay increases. Proper intake of calcium and Vitamin D can help curb bone loss and reduce the risk of decay.
At Eggert Family Dentistry, we believe that good dental health starts with the basics. Thorough daily brushing and flossing as well as routine dental exams help lay a solid dental foundation for a lifetime. It’s also important for women to remain mindful of their dental health during the various hormonal seasons of their lives. If you want to learn more about how female hormonal changes affect dental health or to schedule a routine dental exam, Dr. Elizabeth and Dr. Jeff can be reached at 651.482.8412.