Some of the female patients at our NYC cosmetic dental practice have mentioned to us that their gums seem more sensitive around the time of their monthly cycle; when pregnant; during peri-menopause; and during menopause in women who receive hormone replacement therapy. In particular, they notice that their gums are puffy and may bleed with flossing. Does this describe you? Although some women never experience hormone-related changes in their oral health, if you do, this information will help!
Hormones and Oral Tissues Impact on DentalHealth
Hormones, particularly estrogen, fluctuate around the monthly menstrual cycle, as well as during puberty, pregnancy, peri-menopause and in women taking hormone replacement medication. A study led by Charlene Krejci, DDS, MSD, associate clinical professor at the Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine, confirms that hormonal fluctuations allow increased bacterial growth in oral tissues. This added bacteria can increase a woman’s risk for bone loss, gingivitis and pre-term birth, as well as low infant birth weight. Gum disease, in particular, begins with a build-up of plaque on teeth and under the gums. If plaque is not removed during routine dental visits, irritation and inflammation occurs, and resulting toxins can eat away at the bones that anchor the teeth. The result: bleeding gums and, ultimately, an increased risk of tooth loss.
How The Study Was Conducted
Dr. Krejci and her colleagues reviewed a large body of literature from dental journal articles that reflected nearly 100 studies to ascertain how hormones are related to gum disease. According to Dr. Krejci, “There’s definitely a gender-specific connection between women’s hormones, gum disease, and specific health issues impacting women.”
Although it’s widely known that women who are pregnant have a higher risk for gum disease, similar short-term effects are also apparent during the onset of puberty, during peri-menopause, and while on birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy.
Things to Keep in Mind Regarding Dental Health
- If you are experiencing tender, puffy gums, it may be related to hormonal changes. Although you may notice some slight bleeding when flossing, don’t stop flossing! Do let us know if your gums become very sensitive. We can help!
- The best time to schedule a cleaning is the week after your menstrual cycle, when estrogen levels are lower. Hormone-induced gum swelling can affect both the measurements of “pocket depth,” (which tells us about your gum health) and discomfort during cleaning.
- Be more vigilant with brushing and flossing the week prior to your cycle. Although we advise all our patients to lower their risk of gum disease by brushing and flossing twice a day, it’s wise to be particularly thorough the week prior to your cycle, before a rise in estrogen may make your gums a bit tender.
- Schedule fillings or dental procedures when hormone levels are lower, which is usually immediately after the end of your cycle. Be aware that estrogen also increases mid-cycle.
- If you have known gum disease, get treatment prior to becoming pregnant to avoid an increase in gingivitis during pregnancy when symptoms may increase at the same time that treatment options are somewhat fewer.
We consider it a privilege to care for your dental health. Never hesitate to phone us if you have a concern. If we haven’t seen you in the past 6 months, please call us today at 212-267-1884 to schedule an appointment!