Women, Hormones, and Oral Health
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Table of Contents
- Hormonal Changes & Oral Health
- Changes at Different Stages
- Tips to Avoid Problems
- Frequently Asked Questions
Women have four definitive stages of life when their hormones change or surge. The natural hormonal changes affect their overall health, including their oral health.
The four stages are puberty, the start of a menstrual cycle, pregnancy and menopause.
A rebalancing of the hormones estrogen and progesterone can make gums sore and more prone to bleeding. They can also cause painful canker sores.
Women can make some preventative care changes to help with symptoms.
Relationship Between Hormonal Changes and Oral Health
Women go through significant hormonal changes during major life stages, including puberty, menstruation, pregnancy and menopause. The changes do carry an impact on teeth, gums and overall oral health.
Hormones are chemical messengers the body produces to perform various functions. While both men and women essentially have the same hormones, they are produced at different levels throughout life. Since hormones are transported through the bloodstream, they can affect different parts of the body, including the mouth.
Women have higher levels of progesterone and estrogen hormones. These hormones and the balance of them are central to the health of a woman’s reproductive system. But they also raise blood flow to the gums, which can lead to increased sensitivity.
When gum sensitivity rises, mouth tissues can overreact to bacteria and plaque. This results in red, swollen gums that bleed easily and an increased vulnerability to periodontal disease.
Left untreated, periodontal disease leads to more oral health problems. The worst-case scenario is one in which you lose one or more teeth.
How Hormone Changes at Different Stages Affect Your Oral Health
Hormone changes that occur in during any stage of a woman’s life can affect overall health, including that of their teeth and gums. The most significant of the changes occur during:
- A menstrual cycle
- While using birth control
Puberty is the first time when women (and men) notice bodily changes that stem from hormonal changes. The timing of puberty is different for every child, but it usually starts before age 14 and often as early as age 10.
During a girl’s puberty, her body starts producing estrogen in the hypothalamus. As a response to the increase in estrogen, gums may become red, swollen and tender.
Some young women also develop canker sores. Diligent brushing and flossing reduce the amount of plaque in the mouth and can relieve some of the associated gum irritation.
The Menstrual Cycle
Puberty signals the start of a girl becoming a woman. But while the start of puberty is hard to detect, the start of the menstrual cycle is not. From the day a girl gets her period, she can expect monthly changes in her hormones.
Every month before the menstrual cycle, a woman’s body releases extra progesterone and estrogen. This can lead to sensitive, red and swollen gums as well as bleeding and canker sores.
Symptoms usually start a few days before the period starts and go away when the period begins.
During pregnancy, women experience a massive surge of progesterone and estrogen hormones. This drastic increase in these hormones can lead to a number of oral complications, including pregnancy gingivitis.
It is vital to keep up with your regular dental checkups while pregnant, including getting regular preventive dental cleanings. Gum disease can lead to pregnancy complications like premature birth, preeclampsia and low birth weight.
During menopause, estrogen levels drop suddenly. Unfortunately, this too can cause oral problems. Some of these include:
- A burning sensation in your mouth
- Altered taste
- Bone loss
- Dry mouth
Some of these problems can lead to further complications. For instance, dry mouth makes tooth decay more likely, while bone loss can lead to tooth loss due to instability in the tooth roots.
While Using Birth Control
Tips to Avoid Oral Health Problems
Hormonal changes are normal, but that doesn’t mean your oral health has to suffer. You can take one or more steps minimize the effects of hormonal changes on your oral health. Among them:
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day for two minutes at a time and floss at least once a day.
- Visit your dental care provider for a full checkup and dental cleaning every six months. At the very least, have an annual checkup and cleaning.
- Use a antimicrobial mouth rinse.
- Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet.
- Cut back on eating starchy and sugary foods.
- Drink more water (especially from fluoridated sources).
- Do not hesitate to ask for dental help if you think something is off, such as you think you may have developed dry mouth.
- Quit smoking.
- Avoid alcohol.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can hormones affect your mouth?
Can hormones cause tongue problems?
Can hormonal changes cause dry mouth?
Estrogen's Effects on the Female Body. (September 2020). Johns Hopkins Medicine.
Hormones Associated with the Menstrual Cycle Appear to Drive Sexual Attraction More Than You Know. (March 2011). American Psychological Association.
Female Hormones and Oral Health. (November 1998). Netherlands Journal of Dentistry.
Gender in Endocrine Diseases: Role of Sex Gonadal Hormones, (October 2018). International Journal of Endocrinology.
Estrogen and the Cardiovascular System. (November 2017). Pharmacology & Therapeutics.
What is Periodontal Disease? (July 2013). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Hormones in Pregnancy. (December 2012). Nigerian Medical Journal.
Common Symptoms in Pregnancy. (August 2019). The National Health Service (NHS).