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Focus On...Hormones Can Impact Your Oral Health More Than You Know with Cheong Eun Lee, DDS, Ryan Health Director of Dental and Radiology
The female body is a beautiful, complex creation, capable of carrying another human being. And the delicate balance of hormones that affects a woman’s body at different stages of her life also impacts her oral health. Ignoring that can lead to gingivitis and other serious oral health problems.
Estrogen and progesterone are the two most important hormones in the female body. Estrogen is the hormone that regulates the menstrual cycle. Progesterone is the hormone that supports a pregnancy. Their presence fluctuates during various stages of a woman’s life. These are puberty, throughout the menstrual cycle, during pregnancy, and menopause. They also play a key role in women’s oral health and impact periodontal tissues. Periodontal tissues support the structure of the mouth: teeth, gums, bones, and connective tissues.
During puberty, for instance, an increase in hormones causes more blood to flow throughout the body. That, in turn, causes an immune response triggering the oral tissues to become inflamed. Young girls going through puberty may experience gingivitis as a result. Gingivitis is inflammation of the gums due to bacteria and irritants in the mouth. It can cause bleeding, puffiness in the gums and soreness. Gingivitis can be worsened by the physical, social and environmental stresses of puberty. If she is wearing braces, a young girl may also start slacking off on her oral health care by not flossing or by brushing less. Gingivitis is reversible. It generally goes away about a week after a good cleaning by the dentist that removes plaque buildup. That’s why it is important to foster good oral health habits at home and to schedule a visit to the dentist every six months.
The menstrual cycle also causes a fluctuation of hormones. During a woman’s monthly cycle, she may experience a condition called menstrual gingivitis. The body does not only feel irritable emotionally and physically during a period, but the oral cavity also experiences similar irritation, bleeding, and soreness. Gums are sensitive, puffy, and inflamed. It is a temporary condition but one that occurs monthly.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says 60 percent to 75 percent of pregnant women experience pregnancy gingivitis. Gingivitis, when left untreated, can lead to periodontal disease. Periodontal disease has been connected to poor pregnancy outcomes, including preterm birth and low birth weight. During pregnancy, the body is undergoing a lot of changes and hormones drastically affect oral health. Morning sickness, nausea, dietary changes, and vomiting may increase bacteria in the mouth. Gums are often inflamed and bleeding all the time from the imbalance of hormones. OB-GYNs at Ryan Health routinely encourage pregnant patients to visit our dental centers.
Menopause, which is noted by a decline in estrogen, leads to bone loss, periodontal inflammation, and connective tissue loss. During this stage in life, women often experience dry mouth due to a decrease in saliva. Saliva is a natural cleansing agent that rinses your mouth of food particles and bacteria, and it helps preserve the Ph level of the oral cavity. Without saliva, our mouth becomes more susceptible to gum disease, tooth decay, and eventually tooth loss.
Whatever stage of life you’re in, it is critical to practice good oral hygiene. Visit your dentist twice a year, brush and floss daily, and use an antimicrobial mouthwash, like Listerine. In addition, you should follow all the other healthy lifestyle habits that everyone knows — eat a well-balanced diet, drink plenty of water, and get enough sleep. Stress can impact hormone levels, which can affect your oral health.
Many women don’t realize that changes to their oral health may be because of the stage of life they’re in. The fluctuations and balance of hormones have a greater impact on your entire body than you realize!
Ryan Health provides dental services at Ryan Health | West 97th Street, Ryan Health | NENA, Ryan Health | Adair, and Ryan Chelsea Clinton. Our dentists are available Monday through Friday, with select Saturday hours throughout the month.
To schedule an appointment, use our Online Scheduler or call 212-749-1820.