Women and Periodontal Health
Throughout a woman’s life, hormonal changes affect tissue throughout the body. Fluctuations in hormonal levels occur during puberty, pregnancy and menopause. At these times, the chance of periodontal disease may increase, requiring special oral care.
During puberty, there is increased production of sex hormones. These higher hormone levels increase gum sensitivity and lead to greater irritation from plaque and food particles. The gums can become swollen, turn red, and feel tender.
Similar symptoms occasionally appear several days before menstruation. Your gums may bleed, with bright red swelling between the teeth and gum, or sores may develop the inside of your cheeks. These symptoms generally clear up once menstruation has begun.
Your gums and teeth are also affected during pregnancy. Between the second and eighth month of your pregnancy, your gums may swell, bleed, and become red or tender. Large lumps may appear as a reaction to local irritants; however, these growths are generally painless and not cancerous. They may require professional removal, but usually disappear sometime after your delivery. Periodontal health practices should be part of your prenatal care. Any infections during pregnancy, including periodontal infections, can place a baby’s health at risk. For more information, see the section of our website labeled “Pregnancy and Periodontal Disease” under the “Mouth-Body Connection” tab.
Swelling, bleeding, and tenderness of the gums may also occur when you are taking oral contraceptives, which are synthetic hormones. You should always tell your physicians and dentists about any prescriptions you are taking, including oral contraceptives, prior to medical or dental treatment. This will help eliminate the risk of drug interactions, such as antibiotics with oral contraceptives, which lessens the effectiveness of the contraceptive.
Changes in the look and feel of your mouth may occur if you are menopausal or post-menopausal. They include: feeling pain and burning in your gum tissue and salty, peppery, sour tastes, and “dry mouth.” Careful oral hygiene at home and professional cleaning may relieve these symptoms. There are also saliva substitutes to treat the effects of dry mouth.