When it comes to oral health, women have some unique concerns. The change in hormone levels caused by the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and menopause can cause issues in your mouth, teeth, and gums. Issues like diabetes can also affect your oral health. Brushing, flossing, and visiting a dentist regularly can help prevent oral health problems, as well as overall health issues.
What Is Oral Health?
Oral health refers to the wellness of the mouth, including the teeth, gums, throat, and mouth bones. Issues with your oral health, like gum disease, could signify other health issues. Gum disease is caused by plaque, a film of bacteria that grows on your teeth. These bacteria, if left unchecked, can destroy tissue and bone in the mouth and cause tooth loss. Oral bacteria can also travel into your body and cause illnesses. If you’re also pregnant, the bacteria can affect the unborn baby.
How Often Should You Brush and Floss?
Dentists say that you should brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, and floss once a day. Flossing takes care of the plaque between your teeth, which can’t be reached with just a toothbrush. You can also use incidental cleaners, like picks or water flossers, to eliminate plaque.
How Often Should You See the Dentist?
You should visit a dentist around once or twice a year. If you have health issues like diabetes or a compromised immune system, you may need to see a dentist more often. These issues can increase your likelihood of gum disease or other oral problems. Pregnancy also increases the risk of gum disease. Gum issues and bone loss can happen more quickly to women undergoing menopause.
Hormones’ Effect on Oral Health
Throughout a woman’s life, her hormone levels change. These changes can affect your oral health, namely through swelling and irritation in the gums. There might also be bleeding, especially in pregnant women, as their immune system is more sensitive than usual, causing the gums to become inflamed. Regular brushing and flossing can reduce irritation and bleeding.
The Menstrual Cycle’s Effect on Oral Health
During the menstrual cycle, a woman’s hormone levels fluctuate. During the ovulation and before the start of the period, your levels of progesterone increase, which causes swelling, redness, and bleeding in the gums. You’re also more likely to develop canker sores, small ulcers which develop inside the mouth. Unlike herpes cold sores, canker sores can’t be passed to other people.
Birth Control’s Effect on Oral Health
Hormone-based birth control methods, like pills, shots, vaginal rings, or IUDs increase the levels of certain hormones in your body. These hormones cause your gums to become swollen, red, and sensitive. Your hormone levels can affect the way your mouth heals after dental procedures. After a tooth is removed, a clot forms in the space. Hormonal birth control increases the likelihood of the clot falling out, which can expose the nerves and cause intense pain. Let your dentist know about any medication you’re taking before undergoing a medical procedure, especially
Pregnancy’s Effect on Oral Health
Pregnancy makes brushing your teeth more difficult, sometimes strongly-flavored toothpaste can make pregnant women nauseous. Pregnancy also causes hormone levels to change, which can lead to the following issues:
Severe Gum Disease: Also known as periodontitis, this is an infection that affects the tissue holding your teeth in place. Periodontitis is caused by not taking care of your mouth, allowing plaque to form. Severe gum disease leads to sore/bleeding gums, painful chewing, and tooth loss.
Loose Teeth: During pregnancy, women’s joints and tissues loosen to prepare for childbirth. This includes the tissue attached to your teeth; good oral hygiene will prevent this from leading to other issues.
Tooth Enamel Erosion: Pregnancy usually causes vomiting and heartburn, which brings stomach acid into your mouth. This erodes the hard enamel coating on your teeth. To prevent this, it’s recommended that you rinse your mouth with a teaspoon of baking soda mixed into a cup of water half an hour before brushing.
Can You See the Dentist While Pregnant?
Yes, there are no great risks in going to the dentist while pregnant. Be sure to inform your dentist that you are pregnant, so they can make sure to take the appropriate precautions. Also, you should schedule your dentist visit earlier in your pregnancy, as sitting in a dentist’s chair for an extended period will be uncomfortable for those late into their pregnancy. While you’re pregnant, be sure to take care of any necessary medical checkups to make sure nothing’s affecting you or the child.
Menopause’s Effect on Oral Health
After menopause, a woman’s estrogen levels are quite low, which can cause oral pain, dry mouth, and osteoporosis.
How Oral Health Connects to Overall Health
Problems with your oral health might signify deeper health issues. Some issues might also increase your risk of oral problems. The most common issues that also affect your mouth are diabetes, eating disorders, and HIV.
How to Prevent Oral Health Issues
The best ways to maintain good oral health are visiting your dentist once or twice a year, eating healthy, avoiding smoking, and not drinking soda.
Afraid to See a Dentist?
Many people dislike the dentist due to an aversion to physical pain. Women who have dealt with trauma or violence may have difficulty with dentists due to post-traumatic stress or fear. Discuss your concerns with your dentist; they might have ways to make you more comfortable. It might make you more comfortable to see a female dentist/assistant, or to have a loved one there with you. Dentists can also help by explaining every step in the process or agreeing to stop anytime you need them to stop. They can also play relaxing music or television, or you might need to be medicated. If your issues run deeper, you might want to consult a mental health professional for further assistance.
Paying for Dental Care
Dental insurance is sometimes included in health insurance plans, but you might need a separate dental plan. You can get either of these plans from the Health Insurance Marketplace. Medicare parts A, B, and D don’t cover dental care, but part C does. Medicaid varies depending on the state, but dental visits for people under 18 or pregnant women are always covered. You can also contact your states dental association or the Oral Health Database for low-cost options near you.
- Division of Oral Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, CDC, HHS: 770-488-6054
- National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, NIH, HHS: 1-866-232-4528
- Academy of General Dentistry: 1-888-243-3368
- The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry: 312-337-2169
- American Academy of Periodontology: 312-787-5518
- American Dental Association: 312-440-2500