There's an old adage that goes, 'Gain a child, lose a tooth', and going by recent research there does seem to be some truth to it, especially as far as the relationship between oral health and hormonal changes goes. Oral hygiene is important for every single person, but women need to pay extra attention especially when they attain puberty, during menses, while using birth control pills/injections/patches, when they're pregnant and during menopause.
Let's take one of the most common diseases amongst adults in India, i.e. gum disease. This is a bacterial infection causing inflammation or swelling of the gums, but it doesn't end there: the toxins may enter the blood stream and cause other health complications such as heart disease, diabetes and respiratory problems. Pregnant women may give birth to pre-term or low birth weight babies. Changes in women's hormonal levels cause the gums to react differently and the response is much more aggravated to plaque which sticks around the teeth.
Women need to pay extra attention especially when they attain puberty, during menses, while using birth control pills, when they're pregnant and during menopause.
During the pubertal spurt, many girls might find their gums feeling swollen or sensitive. They may also notice bleeding of the gums during brushing or flossing prior to periods, while others may have minute oral ulcers or sensitive mouth. During puberty, the increased levels of female hormones--estrogen and progesterone--increases blood flow to gums resulting in such conditions. While menstrual gingivitis generally clears up on its own, a more severe reaction may leave some lasting damage if there is already presence of plaque in the mouth.
Women who are on birth control pills/patches are also more prone to gum disease. They must share this information with dental surgeons so that they can differentiate between an exaggerated response or the actual disease. Incidence of 'dry socket', a painful condition, after tooth extraction is much higher in women on pills.
Pregnancy poses a similar challenge. Starting in the second or third month, there is increased incidence of 'pregnancy gingivitis' or 'pregnancy epulis', which may be more severe if gum disease is already present. Further, frequent vomiting during pregnancy can damage the teeth as the acid causes breakdown of the enamel. It is best to rinse your mouth thoroughly immediately after you vomit.
Menopause means end of menses because of reduced hormonal production. There are numerous oral changes which occur as a consequence and can include altered taste, burning sensations in the mouth, greater sensitivity to hot and cold foods and beverages, and decreased salivary flow leading to dry mouth. Dry mouth, in turn, can lead to the development of tooth decay and gum disease, because saliva is not available to moisten and cleanse the mouth by neutralizing acids produced by plaque.
If you have any of these conditions, do get in touch with your dentist to prevent further problems.
Tips for a healthy mouth
- Learn the correct methods of brushing and flossing.
- Never ignore the early warning bells and get regular check-ups.
- Food cravings, especially for sugary and starchy items, must be controlled.
- Using a baking soda rinse after vomiting reduces the acids in the mouth.
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