02 Aug Women’s Health and Dental Health – Celebrating ADA Dental Health Week
Chances are you’ve blamed your period for a bloated belly, a chocolate craving or an emotional outburst after watching a dog commercial but have you ever thought of holding your hormones responsible for changes in your mouth? There are definitely specific times in your life when you need some extra TLC for yourself.
Throughout a woman’s life changes such as puberty, the menstrual cycle, pregnancy and the use of birth control medications can all cause hormonal fluctuations. These hormonal fluctuations can cause significant changes in your mouth. Let’s have a look at what happens at these times and what can be done about it.
Puberty is a difficult time for the whole family, whilst the individual is going through many changes; physically, mentally and also hormonally, their families are also adapting to these new changes. The changes during puberty are due to the increase in hormones that goes hand in hand with an increased risk of gingivitis due to the gum tissues reacting strongly to any irritation, food particles, bacterial plaque and tartar.
Any bleeding of the gums at any stage of life when flossing or brushing is usually a sign that the mouth is not as healthy as it can be.
What can you do about this?
Luckily, gingivitis (a form of gum disease) responds well to professional cleaning and good oral hygiene. Gums can be more reactive during puberty so it is important to visit us so we can not only remove the bacterial build up which causes gums to become swollen, tender, red and may bleed easily but we can show you how to best combat your gum disease at home!
While flossing and brushing sound rudimentary, the right techniques can make a big difference to efficiently and effectively remove bacteria. From what we see day to day at The Smile Team dentist, the most common changes we suggest to our patients are to brush for a full 2 minutes, brush closer to the gums, spend more time brushing the back teeth, brush more softly, and to floss further (but gently) towards the gums along each tooth surface.
Menstruation is also a time of change in hormone levels for women of all ages. Some women, especially those who are have a family history of gum disease will notice oral bleeding and swollen and tender gums whilst other women will not notice any changes at all. Other possible oral changes include cold sores, canker sores and swollen salivary glands.
Generally, discomfort from the gums relates to hormonal changes will go away once menstruation begins however having the skills to lessen the bacterial inflammation in your mouth will help to minimise your monthly symptoms. If you are prone to cold sores or canker sores you will understand how painful these little lesions can be! Unfortunately, cold sores and canker sores often will be problematic for 7 to 14 days; symptomatic relief can be achieved with over the counter topical pain relievers such as Bonjela or SM 33 or systemic pain relievers such as Nurofen.
Warm salt water rinses can be an incredibly simple but effective help for many types of mouth sores.
Oral Contraceptive Pills
Oral contraceptive pills (OCP) are used for a wide range of applications from the obvious – as contraception, to reducing symptoms of painful periods, to relieving migraines and also treating acne. OCP’s work by changing the levels of hormones in the body, increasing a woman’s inflammatory response and again increasing risk for gum disease and inflammation. With improvements in pharmaceuticals the OCP today has lower hormone levels than ws previously available so recent studies are showing less women affected by these changes.
For the wonderful life experience and journey that is pregnancy, there is certainly a lot happening! So much so we’ve created a separate dental article to get into all the details where you can find out how does pregnancy affect my teeth.
After a woman’s reproductive years there is a sharp decline of hormone levels which lasts for a period of 5 to 10 years. 30 – 50 % of women do not notice any changes throughout this phase however some women will experience oral discomfort such as pain, a burning sensation, and changes in taste and dryness in the mouth. A further complication is the decline in estrogen which occurs with menopause. This decline in estrogen can put women at a greater risk of loss of bone density which can lead to bone loss. Some medications to fight bone loss can also affect dental health.
Dryness in the mouth can affect not only the gum tissues but also elevate risk of dental decay and there are many different ways to manage dry mouth or xerostomia. Dry mouth is a common problem and can be attributed to many different things. Please feel welcome to speak to us at your preventive care appointments as we have many tips that can greatly improve your symptoms. It is important that you speak to us about symptoms such as pain, burning sensations and changes in taste as this can be attributed to not only hormonal changes but many other non-hormone related causes which can be managed comfortably. Pharmacists can also be very helpful in helping patients manage dry mouth symptoms, often through Biotene products.
At the Smile Team Balwyn North dentist we feel privileged to help women of all ages. Our highly trained, friendly, caring dentists and oral health therapists can help you tailor an oral homecare routine whatever your recent change may be whether it is starting high school, to working full time and also in retirement. Please speak to us about changes in your life so we can help you achieve the ultimate you!
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