Did you know that half of Americans have some form of periodontal disease? According to a CDC report from 2012, half of Americans (47.2%) aged 30 and older are afflicted with mild to severe cases. Although more common in men than women (56.4% vs. 38.4%), other factors related to a woman’s health and hormone levels may make women more susceptible at certain times in their life.
What is gum disease?
Periodontal diseases are infections or inflammation that affect the gums or bone surrounding and supporting your teeth. Gums can become red and swollen and bleed easily, and in the worst cases a tooth may loosen and fall out. This can be avoided by ensuring that plaque and related bacteria are removed through regular at home dental care, such as brushing and flossing, as well as regular visits to the dentist for semiannual cleanings.
Risk factors for women:
Fluctuating hormones may put women at a higher risk for developing gum disease.
- Puberty. Increased levels of sex hormones starting in puberty, such as progesterone and possibly estrogen, causing increased blood circulation to the gums, which may lead to irritation, particularly from any remaining food particles and plaque. During this time gums may feel swollen and tender and bleed more easily when brushing or flossing. Keep up with regular dental care, and symptoms will eventually lessen as the hormones level out.
- Menstruation. A woman’s gums may also be affected by her monthly cycle. Before a woman’s period, the increased level of progesterone in her system may cause red, swollen, tender, or bleeding gums, or canker sores on the inside of the mouth—symptoms of what is called menstruation gingivitis. Take extra care when brushing and flossing, and the symptoms should diminish once menstruation has started.
- Pregnancy. Increased progesterone in a woman’s system is again the culprit in pregnancy gingivitis, which may develop around the second or third month of the first trimester. Consider going to the dentist for a professional cleaning, particularly during the second trimester, to keep symptoms at bay. Should (pregnancy gingivitis) develop, symptoms are likely to clear up by around the eighth month. Also, in some cases a pregnancy tumor may develop on the gums. Despite its name, it’s relatively harmless. It is formed by inflamed gum tissue and is not cancerous. Maintain diligent oral care and check with your dentist regarding treatment options.
- Oral contraceptives. Birth control pills affect the possibility of developing gum disease for similar reasons as described above; namely, the increased amount of progesterone may cause swollen, irritated gums which respond more sensitively to food particles and plaque buildup. Be sure to keep up with brushing and flossing at home and regular dental visits.
- Menopause. Menopausal or postmenopausal women may experience some changes in their mouths in response to changing hormone levels. This is more likely if a woman is taking progesterone supplements. A small percentage of women may develop menopausal gingivostomatitis. A condition where gums may look dry or shiny, and range in color from pale to dark red. Symptoms may also be increase sensitivity to hot and cold, as well as burning or abnormal taste sensations.
We here at San Antonio Periodontics and Implants want to remind you to check with your dentist if you believe you may be at risk for developing gum disease as a result of changing hormone levels. In general, though, don’t forget to keep up with your preventative care; brush and floss diligently, eat healthy foods, and go for regular dental checkups.