Women’s Oral Health
Did you know women need more dental attention than men? It’s true. Women have unique oral health concerns. Of course, good dental hygiene habits are the same for all people, regardless of gender; however, growing evidence shows that women may be significantly more susceptible to serious health consequences from poor oral health.
Hormones and Oral Health in Women
Fluctuating hormone levels during various stages of women’s lives, like puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause, as well as oral contraceptive use, can lead to severe gum disease.
Puberty and Oral Health
The high hormone levels associated with puberty can result in sensitive gums in young women. Irritation of the gums by plaque and food particles can cause redness and swelling. When this happens, periodontal therapy may help prevent damage to oral tissues. Brushing and flossing after meals will also help reduce the cause of irritation. As puberty progresses, the sensitivity and resulting irritation will lessen.
Effects of Menstruation on Oral Health
Monthly hormone level fluctuations and the resulting increased salivary proteins make women more susceptible to bad breath prior to their monthly cycles. Brushing more diligently, flossing more carefully, using a tongue scraper after meals, and using a mouth rinse throughout the day will help combat this.
Oral Health During Pregnancy
A mother’s dental health impacts not only her oral health but the health of her unborn child’s developing teeth as early as six weeks after conception. Morning sickness and acid reflux can break down the protective barrier against tooth decay. Surging hormones play a role in common health problems during pregnancy, including cavities, loose teeth, gum disease, and pregnancy oral tumors. There’s also a growing body of research that has confirmed that severe gum disease increases the likelihood of preterm birth and low birthweight. It’s recommended that pregnant women have a thorough cleaning during the first trimester and a short checkup in each of the following trimesters.
Oral Health in Older Women: Aging and Menopause
Oral health issues in women can also increase the risk of other health problems like diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, pneumonia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and osteoporosis. In particular, the presence of periodontal disease in women is closely linked to the incidence of osteoporosis, and vice versa.
Post-menopausal women are more likely to experience dry mouth, and the lack of saliva makes them more susceptible to gum disease and tooth decay, as it works to help defend the mouth by washing off food from teeth, neutralizing acids in the mouth, fighting germs, and preventing bad breath.
How to Maintain Women’s Oral Health
Hormones and aging are a fact of life, but that doesn’t mean they have to interfere with a woman’s ability to maintain a healthy smile at every stage of her life. Through good oral habits like brushing, flossing, regular dental visits, and following a healthy diet with plenty of vitamin C, B-12, and D as well as calcium, women can maintain their oral health.
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