Women experience unique hormonal changes at different stages in life and may be more susceptible to oral health problems. While women tend to take better care of their oral health than men do, women’s oral health is not markedly better than men’s. Hormonal fluctuations throughout a woman’s life can affect many tissues, including gum tissue.
By understanding these changes, you can practice good oral health habits that will keep your teeth and gums healthy.
- 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 oral 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 it is very large, it must be removed; if left untreated during the pregnancy, it will still be there after the pregnancy. You may need more frequent professional cleanings during your second or early third trimester to help prevent gingivitis.
- Menopause and Post-Menopause: Women who are menopausal or post-menopausal may experience changes in their mouths. They 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.