Experiencing hormonal changes is one of the less popular side effects of being female! Many women have dealt with a little – or a lot – of PMS, and the bigger stages of life have an impact on hormones and hormone balances too. Puberty, having children and later, the menopause, are all key stages when serious changes in hormones take place. What is less well-known is the impact this all has on dental health.

  • How do hormones affect my mouth?
  • Any kind of change in hormone levels can have an effect on the mouth. This is because hormones affect blood flow around the body – and changes in hormones lead to a disrupted supply, including the blood flow to gums. High levels of certain hormones – namely progesterone and estrogen – increase blood flow, and mean your gums are more sensitive to irritants like plaque and bacteria. If your gums can’t cope, gum disease may develop. This can start a vicious circle of bacteria formation, plaque accumulation, and inflamed and sore gums. If left untreated, this inflammation can progress from mild gum disease through to more serious stages, and even tooth and bone loss.

    • What is gum disease?
    • In its mild form, known as gingivitis, gum disease has the symptoms of redness and swelling. Your gums might feel uncomfortable, or bleed when you brush or floss. At this point, plaque and bacteria have started to collect. While these symptoms should be taken seriously, the gum disease is easily reversible right now. Your dentist might recommend a more thorough dental routine, and maybe a professional clean with the hygienist to remove surface plaque. If left untreated, gum disease can advance to the more serious stages known as periodontitis. Your gums start to recede as they pull away from the teeth, allowing more and more bacteria and plaque to accumulate. Over time the plaque will encroach further and further, affecting supporting tissues around teeth and causing them to become loose. You’ll notice changes in the way your teeth feel and fit, bad breath or a bad taste, and pus or pain. In advanced periodontitis, tissue and bone is permanently destroyed and teeth may need to be removed. The best way to avoid all of these scary complications is to be aware, and to take care!

      • Teenagers
      • The first stage of life when hormones change is puberty. For girls, this means a flood of estrogen and progesterone. These hormones increase blood flow in the mouth, change the way gums react to plaque, and altogether make gums more likely to become inflamed or sore. If you’re particularly unlucky you might experience canker sores or swollen salivary glands. This can also happen as part of your monthly menstrual cycle, when hormone levels again are changing. The best treatment is to maintain the most thorough dental hygiene routine you can – brushing for two minutes twice a day, flossing, and staying away from sugar and bad foods.

        • Contraception
        • Birth control pills contain progesterone – which means fluctuating hormone levels. Again, if you notice sore or inflamed gums, just keep a close eye on your dental routine. If the symptoms don’t go away of their own accord, or become worse, you should definitely see your dentist for help.

          • Pregnancy
          • Having a baby is another time of life when hormones cause their chaos! Pregnancy gingivitis is a mild form of gum disease, and can happen from the second to the eighth month of pregnancy. Careful brushing and flossing, and general dental care is the solution. During this time, it’s even more important to visit the dentist – so don’t neglect your visits. The dentist will make sure a slight blip in mouth health doesn’t become something more serious. A professional clean with the hygienist is the usual course of action if you are suffering.

            • Later in life
            • The menopause means massive changes for every woman, and yet more changes in hormones. Decreased saliva flow – either because through age, or as a side effect of medications taken for a separate condition – can lead to an uncomfortable condition called dry mouth. Bone loss, caused by the reduction in estrogen levels, can also cause receding gums in the mouth. In these situations, your mouth’s natural defences are a bit more vulnerable than normal, and gum disease can take hold more easily.

              • Keeping best mouth health
              • Whenever there’s a chance of gum disease it’s even more important than ever to keep a good dental routine. That means twice-daily brushing, flossing as often as possible, and going to the dentist every six months. Keep an eye out for any changes in gums and, if you spot anything that concerns you, visit your dentist straight away.

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