4 Times Hormonal Imbalances Affect a Woman’s Oral Health

January 26, 2021

Women face some special dental and oral challenges compared to men. The complex relationship between female hormones and oral health can create various unwanted dental risks, symptoms, and problems at different stages of life — from gingivitis and dry mouth to an increased risk of tooth decay.
Once you understand how these changes can affect you, you can take the appropriate steps to cope with hormone-triggered oral health issues. Here are four situations in which women may need to pay extra attention to their teeth and gums.

1. Puberty

The first major hormonal shift in a woman’s life occurs during puberty. At this time, the body releases massive amounts of two hormones, estrogen and progesterone, which in turn cause the physical changes associated with adulthood and sexual maturity. This hormonal avalanche can also produce an unwanted effect: gum disease.

Girls going through puberty can suffer from red, swollen, and bleeding gums. You may recognize these symptoms as the telltale signs of gingivitis, an inflammatory gum condition caused by the bacteria in plaque. During puberty, the extra rush of female hormones makes the gums especially vulnerable to this reaction.

2. Menstrual Cycles

Through the childbearing years, many women experience monthly menstrual cycles. These cycles stem from hormonal fluctuations that affect all parts of the body, including the gums. Because of these fluctuations, swollen salivary glands, bleeding gums, and canker sores may occur during the days of your period, fading away after the period ends.

Additionally, many women rely on birth control drugs to prevent pregnancy. These drugs boost estrogen and progesterone levels, interrupting menstruation but also raising your risk for gum problems (especially if you already have gingivitis). And smoking while on birth control pills can also make you vulnerable to dry socket following a tooth extraction.

3. Pregnancy

Pregnancy creates yet another hormonal roller coaster that can affect oral health. Over the nine months of a typical pregnancy, up to three-quarters of expectant mothers will develop gingivitis. An extended period of untreated gingivitis can lead to periodontal disease, in which the connective tissues supporting the teeth become destroyed.

Periodontal disease related to a pregnancy can also affect the pregnancy itself. Researchers have connected periodontal disease with premature births and low birth rates in newborns. If you experience gingivitis during your pregnancy, proper treatment can help prevent the condition from reaching this more advanced stage.

4. Menopause

A sharp drop in female hormones can produce oral health challenges just as excessive hormone levels can. This drop occurs when women reach the end of their childbearing years, a phase known as menopause. During menopause, the body stops producing estrogen and progesterone at its former rate.
The loss of estrogen and progesterone commonly leaves women with a chronic case of dry mouth. This problem represents more than just an annoyance, since saliva plays an important role in diluting the acids produced by bacteria. Without this protection, you may face higher risks for tooth decay and gum disease.

Menopause can also allow your bone density to decline. This loss of bone density can affect the jaw, potentially causing your teeth to loosen and fall out. At the same time, you may experience receding gums that expose your tooth roots, making them more prone to decay and infection.

Make sure to schedule twice-yearly dental exams so your dentist can monitor and treat any menopause-related changes in your oral health. Your dentist may also recommend that you consult your primary care physician about medical options for protecting your bone density.

Vanyo Dentistry can help you maintain your oral health at all phases of life, beginning with a comprehensive program of preventative care. Contact our dental office today to schedule an exam and discuss any concerns you might have.