Women and Periodontal Health
In a woman’s life, hormonal changes affect tissue throughout the body. Fluctuations in hormonal levels occur during puberty, pregnancy, and menopause. At these times, the chance of developing periodontal disease may increase, requiring special care of your oral health.
During puberty, there is increased production of sex hormones. Higher levels of sex hormones lead to increased gum sensitivity to the irritation caused by plaque and food particles on and between the teeth. The gums can become tender, swollen, and red.
Similar symptoms occasionally appear several days before menstruation. There can be bleeding of the gums, bright red swelling between the teeth and gums, or sores on the inside of the cheek. The symptoms clear up once the period begins. As the levels of sex hormones decrease, so do these problems.
Gums and teeth are also affected during pregnancy. Between the second and the eighth month of gestation, the gums may swell, bleed, and become red or tender. Lumps may appear on the gums as a reaction to local irritants. However, these growths are generally painless and not cancerous. They may require professional removal, but usually disappear after pregnancy.
Dental prophylaxis should be a part of every woman’s prenatal care. Any infections during pregnancy, including periodontal disease, can place a baby’s health at risk.
The best way to prevent periodontal infections is to begin a pregnancy with a healthy mouth and continue to maintain good oral health with proper home care and careful periodontal monitoring after the baby is born..
Swelling, bleeding, and tenderness of the gums may develop when a woman is taking oral contraceptives, which are synthetic hormones. A patient must disclose any prescription medications, including oral contraceptives, prior to any medical or dental treatment. This will help eliminate the risk of drug interactions, such as the interaction of antibiotics with oral contraceptives – where the effectiveness of the contraceptive can be lessened.
Changes in the appearance and feel of the mouth may occur when a woman is going through menopause or even after menopause. These changes include painful and burning tongue and gums and changes in taste perception caused by dry mouth or xerostomia. Saliva substitutes and alcohol-free mouth rinses may improve these symptoms. As always, meticulous oral hygiene at home and regular professional prophylaxis appointments will help to keep the mouth healthy.