Until I was pregnant with my first child, I had no idea that hormone fluctuation in women could cause issues with dental health. I was quite surprised when I started getting bleeding gums when I was brushing my teeth when pregnant, but found out it was common during pregnancy and can even lead to pregnancy gingivitis. As the body produces more progesterone the supply of blood to the mouth is boosted. This causes the gums to become more sensitive to bacteria, gums may be tender or swollen and they may bleed when brushing or flossing.
My gums would regularly bleed throughout my pregnancy when I brushed my teeth. I even knew I was pregnant with my second child because my gums suddenly started bleeding again when I brushed them!
Luckily pregnancy gingivitis disappears as quickly as it arrives once the baby is born. However, did you know that women’s hormones at various stages in life can affect oral health?
In this article I will share some of the fascinating links between hormones and female oral health.
How hormones affect teeth sensitivity + oral health in women
During pregnancy and breast-feeding it is perfectly normal for a woman to notice changes in their gums and teeth. This is due to the fluctuation in hormones. There are also many other times during their lifetime such as during menstruation, puberty and menopause when females may notice changes in their oral health too, again down to changing hormone levels.
Higher levels of the female hormones oestrogen and progesterone can cause more blood to flow to the gums. It is this which affects female oral health and can cause a sensitivity in the teeth and gums, causing bleeding whilst brushing and a tenderness at other times. The gums can become more susceptible to bacteria and inflammation, leading to oral health conditions such as gingivitis and periodontal disease.
At what stages in a women’s life can hormones affect oral health?
There are five stages when female oral health can be affected by a change in hormones. These are:
- Puberty – “Surging levels of estrogen and progesterone during puberty change the oral environment, predisposing adolescents to an increased risk of gingivitis and periodontal problems.” – Source
- Menstrual cycle – “Our findings show that the effects of the menstrual cycle may not be limited to the endometrium, but can also affect the microbial ecology of the mouth” – Source
- Birth control – “The use of hormonal contraceptives may be associated to severity of periodontal diseases.” – Study
- Pregnancy – “Pregnancy accompanies a series of changes that increase the susceptibility of the woman to various infections including periodontal disease. Chronic periodontal infections can cause local and systemic inflammatory response.” – Study
- Menopause – “After menopause, women become more susceptible to periodontal disease. We believe the problem is due in large part to estrogen deficiency with resulting bone loss and inflammatory processes. Osteoporosis and periodontal disease are best diagnosed early so that treatment can be started sooner and fractures and tooth loss can be prevented.” – Study
Oral health and infertility
There may even be a link between oral health and infertility:
“The chronic inflammatory environment caused by periodontitis and advanced carious lesions in women with unexplained infertility should be of great concern as it may have a role in the etiology of infertility.” – Study
“Fetal death from untreated maternal dental abscesses can be prevented. Illness and death due to lack of dental care need not happen.” – Study
What can be done about oral health issues caused by hormones?
If you have oral health issues caused by female hormone fluctuations then you may be wondering if there’s anything you can do to help prevent the issues from occurring, or at least from getting any worse and causing more dental problems. Luckily there are some ways you can take care of your teeth and gums to lessen the symptoms and prevent the onset of oral diseases.
#1 Don’t slack on your normal dental hygiene
Although your teeth and gums might feel tender due to your hormones, it’s important to maintain your usual dental hygiene routine. This includes brushing twice a day as normal, as well as using floss and interdental brushes where necessary.
#2 Visit your dentist
If you have oral health issues then your dentist can guide and advise you, even if they are hormone-induced. Ensure you stick to your regular dentist appointments, visiting your dentist and hygienist twice a year or as advised.
#3 Chew sugar-free gum
A lesser known solution is to chew sugar-free gum. There are many benefits to chewing sugar-free gum which can improve your oral health. It’s been discovered that people who regularly chew sugar-free gum develop 28% fewer cavities than those who do not.
Chewing sugar-free gum can soothe inflammation in the mouth by stimulating saliva production. Saliva neutralises acid and helps to rid the mouth of bacteria and plaque.
Chewing sugar-free gum can help to reduce and soothe oral health symptoms that might otherwise turn into a gum or tooth disease. It’s a cheap and safe way to help improve your oral health.
#4 Maintain a healthy lifestyle
#5 Stay hydrated
Part of maintain a healthy lifestyle and good oral hygiene is drinking enough fluids each day to stay hydrated. Water helps to prevent Your fluid of choice should be pure water. Click here to read the benefits of drinking distilled water and why it’s a great choice for the type of water you consume each day.