It’s kinda unfair, eh? Besides having to bear babies and deal with those dreaded PMS days (when everyone is just plain old irritating) we also have to deal with female hormones affecting our gum health.
Yup. Yes. You heard me right! The same hormones that keep our skin glowy, our moods happy, and help us carry a baby to term can also wreak havoc on our body and minds by giving us depression, make us serial stalk that cute guy next door, or exacerbate that gum problem we already have.
Professor Krejci from Case Western Reserve University published a landmark study in 2012 where she reviewed journal articles and arrived at a conclusion that the fluctuation of female hormones are associated with gum disease. These hormones can change conditions in the mouth, promote bacterial growth and thus possibly enhance the breakdown of bone and worsen gum disease.
"Although women tend to take better care of their oral health than men, the main message is women need to be even more vigilant about maintaining healthy teeth and gums to prevent or lessen the severity of some of women-specific health issues." - Professor Krejci
During puberty, your body forms sex hormones such as progesterone and estrogen. There is increased blood flow to the gums and they are more reactive towards bacteria and food. So don’t be surprised to see some bright red gums that bleed more, together with the appearance of acne on your face! Some women can also get menstruation gingivitis. The gums get bright red just before menstruation and subside once menstruation starts.
Hormonal changes again make the gums more sensitive to bacteria in plaque and gums can swell and turn bright red. Some poor women even report spontaneous bleeding of the gums. This can be really embarrassing when the gums bleed when you are talking to someone! This is termed pregnancy gingivitis and this condition should resolve with good brushing and when the pregnancy is over.
There is another point to note though: Studies have also linked severe gum disease in pregnant to pre-term low-birth-weight babies. These women tend to have kids that are small with weak immunity. And if born too soon, these little ones have to be incubated, away from their moms!
So please get your gums checked out by a dentist or periodontist before you get pregnant. A mom needs her body to be in tip-top shape to support a healthy baby. If it is a little too late and you are already pregnant, experts recommend a check up during the second trimester when cleaning of the gums can be carried out safely.
Women who are menopausal or post-menopausal may experience changes in their mouths. They may notice discomfort in the mouth, including dry mouth and gums due to those pesky hormones (or rather the lack of). There is less saliva and you are less able to flush away bacteria in the mouth. The bacteria take this opportunity to grow and can worsen gum disease.
So we can see that as women, we need to pay more attention to the gums than men! In addition to brushing and flossing daily, please do get a check up once every six months or when you intend to get pregnant or are undergoing menopause. It can really help keep your baby safe, or prevent you from losing your teeth when you age. Your periodontist can help you through these tricky phases and teach you how to care for your gums.