Women experience unique hormonal changes at different stages in life and may be more susceptible to dental health problems. While women tend to take better care of their dental health than men do, women’s dental health is not markedly better than that of men. Hormonal fluctuations throughout a woman’s life can affect many tissues, including gum tissue.
By understanding the changes unique to women, and practicing good dental health habits, teeth and gums can remain healthy. Here is a review of changes for women:
- Puberty and Menstruation: The increase in female hormones can raise the blood flow to the gums and may cause gum sensitivity and lead to a greater reaction to any irritation, including food particles and plaque. During this time, the gums may become swollen, turn red and feel tender.
- Pregnancy: Hormone levels change considerably during pregnancy. Gingival inflammation during pregnancy affects 60-75% of pregnant women, even those who practice good dental care. Pregnancy changes the tissues in all areas of the body, including the mouth, and breaks down the natural barriers that prevent infection. Hormonal and vascular changes exaggerate the inflammation; sometimes it becomes localized and presents as a sore known as a ‘pregnancy tumor’. If the sore is very large, it must be removed; if left untreated during the pregnancy, it remains after the pregnancy. More frequent professional cleanings during the second or early third trimester helps prevent gingivitis.
- Menopause and Post-Menopause: A woman who is menopausal or post-menopausal may experience a change in her mouth. She may notice discomfort in the mouth, including dry mouth, pain and burning sensations in the gum tissue, altered taste and greater sensitivity to hot and cold foods and beverages.
Oral Contraceptives: Since oral contraceptives contain estrogen and progesterone, they imitate pregnancy. With the body believing it is pregnant, women taking birth control pills may experience gingivitis.