While we all know that women face different general health risks and illnesses than their male counterparts, many do not realize that females also face unique dental health issues. As a health care provider, I feel it is of paramount importance to not only be mindful of these factors, but to also educate patients accordingly so that we can work together to maintain good oral health throughout all stages of our female patients’ lives.
During puberty, females experience a surge in the production of the female hormones estrogen and progesterone. This can cause an increased blood flow to gum tissues and make gums more susceptible to plaque. As a result, gums can more easily become irritated, swollen and red. Teens might notice that their gums bleed during brushing and flossing. Being vigilant about brushing and flossing regularly can be a huge help in preventing gum disease during this important stage in a young woman’s life.
A woman’s monthly menstrual cycle also sees elevated hormone levels. It is therefore quite common for women to experience red or swollen gums, swollen salivary glands, canker sores and bleeding gums during menses. These flare-ups are often seen a day or two prior to the onset of a period and usually settle down once menstruation commences. Again, adhering to a good oral hygiene regimen on an ongoing basis will be of great help in overcoming the impact that these monthly hormonal fluctuations could otherwise have on your gums and teeth.
Birth Control Pills
Oral contraceptives also change a woman’s hormone levels and can therefore have the same effect on a woman’s mouth as her menses. Women who are on birth control pills have a much higher risk of developing dry socket after having a tooth extracted. Because of these and other ways in which oral contraceptives can impact a female’s dental health, it is important that you inform your dentist if you are taking birth control pills – especially before having an extraction.
There are tremendous changes going on throughout a women’s body during pregnancy and her mouth is no exception. It is especially important for a mother-to-be to maintain excellent oral hygiene practices during this special time in her life. Gum disease is so common during pregnancy that it has even been assigned a label, Pregnancy Gingivitis. So take extra care of your teeth and gums when you are expecting!
A pregnant women might also identify a large lump on her gums, often appearing near the upper gum line. These Pregnancy Tumors occur in approximately 10% of expectant women and while they are most often harmless and disappear on their own after the duration of the pregnancy, they can be uncomfortable and make eating and speaking a bit difficult. While pregnancy tumors most frequently appear during the second trimester, they can happened at any time during the gestation period.
If you are planning a pregnancy and suspect you might have a cavity or other dental issue, get it looked after before becoming pregnant as once you are, it is important for pregnant woman to avoid x-rays whenever possible.
It is also usually advisable for pregnant women to increase the frequency of their in-office dental cleanings to help ensure not only their general health, but also the health and wellbeing of their baby. Research has demonstrated a correlation between periodontal disease in pregnant mothers and various illnesses and conditions in their babies’ health including pre-term deliveries and low birth weight.
Burning Mouth Syndrome is a condition that is frequently associated with post-menopausal women. Talk to your dentist or physician if you experience some of its symptoms which can include a tingling or numbness on the tip of your tongue or in your mouth, a bitter or metallic change in taste, or a dry or sore mouth.
Osteoporosis, a progressive loss of bone mass due to aging, can weaken a woman’s jawbone as well as compromising other bones in a woman’s body. Therefore, if you are approaching, are going through or have already undergone menopause, be sure to talk about calcium intake with your doctor to keep all of your bones health and strong.
Steven Deskin is a Brantford Dentist in general practice.