Women and Periodontal Health
Throughout a woman’s life, hormonal changes affect tissue throughout the body. Fluctuations in hormonal levels occur during puberty, pregnancy and menopause. These flucuating levels may expose the woman to varying risk levels for developing periodontal diseases.
During puberty, there is increased production of sex hormones. These higher hormone levels lead to an increased immune response to a given level of plaque accumulation and therefore lead to greater gum irritation. The gums can become swollen, turn red, and feel tender.
Similar symptoms occasionally appear several days before menstruation. Bleeding of the gums, bright red swelling between the teeth and gum, or sores on the inside of the cheek may occur. These symptoms generally clear up once the period has started.
Your gums and teeth are also affected during pregnancy. Between the second and eighth month, gums may also swell, bleed, and become red or tender. Localized swellings may appear as a reaction to local irritants. These conditions may require professional removal of the irritants. The “hyperresponse” usually disappears sometime after delivery. Periodontal health practices should be part of your prenatal care. Any infections during pregnancy, including periodontal infections, could conceivably place a baby’s health at risk. For more information, see the section of our website labeled “Pregnancy and Periodontal Disease” under the “Mouth-Body Connection” tab.
Swelling, bleeding, and tenderness of the gums may also occur when you are taking oral contraceptives. These are synthetic hormones.
You should always mention any prescriptions you are taking, including oral contraceptives, prior to medical or dental treatment. This will help eliminate the risk of drug interactions, such as antibiotics with oral contraceptives, (decreased effectiveness of the contraceptive).
Changes in the look and feel of your mouth may occur if you are menopausal or post-menopausal. They include: feeling pain and burning in your gum tissue and salty, peppery, sour tastes, and “dry mouth.” Careful oral hygiene at home and professional cleaning may relieve these symptoms. There are also oral hygiene product lines and saliva substitutes to treat the effects of dry mouth.