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Women’s oral health at different stages of life

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When was the last time you visited your dentist for an oral check for gingivitis? There are five stages in women’s lives that medical experts say make them more susceptible to oral health problems. These biological phases are controlled by hormones that progress from one stage to the next. According to America’s Center for Disease Control, one out of every two adult females over age 30 has periodontal disease. This makes it imperative to learn more about why this is so.

At puberty

A girl begins to mature sexually when there’s a surge in female hormone production. The two main hormones responsible for these changes are progesterone and estrogen.

The onset of puberty varies from girl to girl; however, on average, these life-altering changes begin at age 12-13. So, how do these two hormones influence oral health?

At puberty, there’s increased blood flow to the gums and all other oral tissue as well. Unfortunately, the increased flow alters the proper functioning of gum tissue.

The gums get overly sensitive and become tender and swollen, making them prone to bleed during routine brushing. Moreover, due to oversensitivity at this time, gum tissue tends to react differently to plaque irritants.

Although the gums lose their natural tendency to protect the teeth, the effects of these changes aren’t immediately noticeable. Besides, it’ll take other contributory changes for effects to become noticeable or severe.

During pregnancy

During this stage of a woman’s life, many things change and happen in females’ bodies, including increased blood flow to all parts of the body. A woman’s body naturally goes into overdrive as new life grows within her.

Unfortunately, the miracle of new life can impact the pregnant woman’s oral health. According to the Centers for Disease Control in the United States, about 60-75% of pregnant women have gingivitis, an early-stage periodontal disease.

Due to the many changes happening in the woman’s body at this time, a mild gingivitis case can escalate to a more severe form. In untreated cases, the gum becomes so infected that it affects the bone supporting the tooth or teeth.

When that happens, the only solution is tooth extraction. Furthermore, science has proven that untreated periodontitis can lead to adverse pregnancy outcomes such as low birth weight or a premature baby.

It is, therefore, advisable to visit the dentist regularly during pregnancy. You’ll find certified periodontists at https://malekperiodontics.com/. Usually, from the second trimester to the early part of the final trimester of pregnancy, women must get professional teeth cleaning.

Going to these appointments helps reduce the chances of developing gingivitis and periodontal disease at any point of the pregnancy. Keep in mind that hormonal fluctuations are common during pregnancy, so stick to oral health routines that improve both mother and baby’s well-being.

Menstruation and women's oral health
Photo by Alina Blumberg from Pexels

Women’s oral health and the menstrual cycle

During the second half of the menstrual cycle, the progesterone hormone rises in the female’s body. That’s responsible for the thickening of the endometrium (lining of the womb) in preparation for a potential pregnancy.

However, when pregnancy fails to occur, this uterine lining build-up sheds and comes out as the monthly flow. Once again, increased blood flow and the higher levels of these predominant female hormones impact the gums.

Some women at this point may experience inflamed salivary glands, bleeding gums, or even oral canker sores. Remember, this is not indicative of an underlying disease. Instead, it’s the body’s reaction to the extreme changes taking place within the body. Although these signs and symptoms vary in women, those with extreme reactions report having menstruation gingivitis that clears up after the period begins.

Use of birth control pills

Birth control pills are a synthetic form of the two main hormones present in the female’s body. What these medications do is maintain consistent levels of these hormones to prevent pregnancy from occurring. Prolonged usage of these synthetic hormones has a direct impact on the gums. More so, the bacteria responsible for periodontal disease feed off increased levels of progesterone.

This exaggerates the body’s natural response to fight off toxins associated with plaque. Additionally, women on birth control pills tend to bleed easily when brushing or flossing, and that’s primarily due to swollen gums caused by the pills. This explains why dentists would usually ask their female patients of a certain age if they’re on birth control pills during some dental procedures.                                                                                                                                                                                                   

In menopause, what are the women’s oral health issues?

Just as it happens during puberty, menopause causes a drastic change in hormonal levels. Whereas puberty causes a surge, menopause brings on a dramatic decrease of essential female hormones.

You might think, if increased blood flow at puberty causes gum sensitivity, then menopause ought to have a balancing effect. However, that’s not the case.

A drastic reduction of estrogen causes bone density problems for women. This means that the chances of some of your teeth falling out are higher as there’s decreased strength in the jawbone supporting your dentition.

Furthermore, women in their menopausal years complain of altered taste and a dry mouth. This is where the actual problem can be.

Besides supporting the efficient breakdown of food in the mouth, saliva cleanses the oral cavity while keeping the gums and teeth moist. In a dry mouth, decreased saliva production causes an inability to neutralize plaque acids.

Subsequently, in the absence of this critical function, non-neutralized acids resort to attacking the gum tissue. After a while, affected persons begin to notice greater sensitivity to hot and cold foods. This happens because the gums gradually pull away from the teeth and expose the root surface connected to the nerve.

In some instances, during the menopausal years, dry mouth is caused by other over-the-counter medications taken to supplement lost hormones. These inadvertently lead to periodontitis. Therefore, in your menopausal years, routine oral checks are compulsory.

A few last words on women’s oral health

With these points highlighted above, you can understand why women are more prone to developing gum disease or periodontitis across the lifespan. The greater your risk, the more importance you must attach to further protective factors. Please share this post to help educate other women about the issues.

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