Being a woman comes with a mixed bag of life experiences. On the one hand women are capable of bringing life into the world, on the other hand women’s hormones can affect everything from their hair to how sensitive their gums and teeth are. As if life couldn’t get any more connected, female hormones play a large role in a woman’s susceptibility to oral disease.
What are Hormones?
Hormones are chemicals in our bodies that are responsible for sending messages from the brain and other glands and “tell” the rest of our body what to do. For example, during puberty the pituitary gland releases growth hormones that cause us to mature into adults. Hormones play a role in everything we do and are controlled by our endocrine system. This system is made up of glands they secrete very specific hormones. Glands in the endocrine system include:
- Ovaries – Women
- Testes – Men
When the endocrine system is out of balance many different outcomes can occur. For women specifically, this can mean problems with oral health.
Female Hormones and Oral Health
The female sex hormone, estrogen, is responsible for a lot in a woman’s life. It signals her body to mature into adulthood, it causes the onset and cessation of her reproductive years, and it enables her to become pregnant. Estrogen and progesterone are two very powerful hormones that also have an affect on a woman’s oral health in many periods of her life.
When estrogen and progesterone levels are high in a woman’s body more blood is flowing throughout her body. This can cause her orals tissues to become “overactive” to any irritants. Because there is more blood in her body, more T cells and other immune responses are being sent to any and every irritant. This is bad news for the gums because bacteria and irritants are daily business in the mouth. During puberty, menstrual cycles, pregnancy, and menopause, women can experiences these surges of hormones that can disrupt their oral balance causing gum inflammation.
Many women do not notice this change every month, but some do. During a menstrual cycle a woman’s gums can become puffy, sore, and bleed easily. It is very important for her to be diligent with her oral care routine during this week. Gum inflammation is reversible and if taken care of properly will cause no lasting damage whatsoever.
During pregnancy is when women tend to notice a drastic change in their oral health. Between the second and eighth week of pregnancy, and sometimes lasting much longer, most women develop gestational gum disease. Because of the drastic hormonal changes her body is going through during this time, gum inflammation is expected and endured. Just like during a menstrual cycle it is extremely important for a woman to take impeccable care of her teeth while she is pregnant. Gum inflammation can be reversed and oral health restored after pregnancy.
Menopause is the final stop in the hormonal roller coaster of a female’s life. Menopause marks the end of a woman’s fertile years and is accompanied by a sharp decline in estrogen and progesterone. The sudden imbalance of these hormones causes some very strange but all together serious changes in a woman’s mouth. First, loss of bone density can affect teeth and cause them to become brittle and more susceptible to breaking. Another strange side effect of menopause is a burning sensation in the mouth. This hormonal change can be uncomfortable but it’s root cause is decreased production of saliva that results in dry mouth. Dry mouth is very detrimental to the teeth because saliva helps wash a way sugar which causes cavities. As a woman ages, she must pay particular attention to her oral health. Getting in contact with her Jacksonville, Florida dentist is a great first start.
Hormone Therapy and Oral Health
Many women going through menopause are quite flabbergasted at the amount of changes they go through. Adding oral issues is just one more of the many things they experience. Thankfully, good news is just around the corner. Research published by the North American Menopause Society describes how estrogen therapy can prevent the development of periodontitis and advancement of bone and tooth loss in postmenopausal women. The scientists who developed this experiment found that estrogen therapy decreased signs of tooth decay, gum disease and bone loss in 44 percent of the 482 women over the age of 50 they studied. Estrogen replacements as well as vitamin D, and supplements were notably effective in improving the oral health of postmenopausal women.
As a woman, there is a lot to think about on a daily basis. Make sure that your oral health doesn’t take up a large portion of your list by making sure you practice beneficial oral health. By brushing and flossing twice each day, and seeing your dentist twice each year – and especially if you become pregnant. Doing so can prevent oral disease from creeping into your “to-take-care-of” list for your entire life.