Bleeding gums, bad breath, and missing teeth—three of the last things you want to share with your daughter this Mothers’ Day. Although heredity plays a small role in determining risk for periodontal disease, life cycle and oral hygiene are far more influential. Dr. Ryan Hussong, whose Polk City, IA dentist office screens for and treats gingivitis and gum disease, explains why women face a more significant threat from the condition.
Risk: Adolescence and Puberty
Periodontal disease is uncommon in children, with most females experiencing symptoms only after reaching puberty. During that time, estrogen and progesterone levels fluctuate wildly, affecting the oral environment and making it more hospitable to the bacteria known to cause this type of infection. For a few days each month immediately prior to menstruation, a young women may notice slight bleeding when she brushes or flosses her teeth. The symptoms disappear shortly afterward and do not pose a threat of long-term consequences.
Risk: Birth Control and Pregnancy
Women of child-bearing age who take oral contraceptives may also develop gingivitis. Hormonal birth control methods, even those that deliver lower doses of hormones, increase this risk. Pregnancy gingivitis, which appears between the second and eighth month, occurs as the result of an increase in progesterone. The condition tends to be more serious and long-lasting than gingivitis that accompanies menstruation. For this reason, says Dr. Hussong, it is extremely important for expectant mothers to continue receiving dental care throughout their pregnancy. A woman who has been diagnosed with gum disease prior to becoming pregnant faces an even greater risk of developing periodontitis, the most severe form of the disease.
Risk: Menopause and Hormone Replacement Therapy
Finally, the age of onset for menopause marks the last major life cycle-related threat to a woman’s gum health. Prescription hormone replacement drugs, such as Premarin, Prempro, and Estrace, also affect their salivary glands. As Dr. Hussong explains in this post, dry mouth is one of the most significant risk factors for developing tooth decay and periodontal disease. Women of this age are especially at risk for another reason—osteoporosis. The condition, which makes bones more brittle and prone to fractures, also affects the bone density in the jaw. The combination of damaged connective tissue causes by gum disease, combined with loss of bone density, poses a serious threat of tooth loss.
Questions about women’s oral health? To learn more about how hormones affect oral health, or to request an appointment with Dr. Ryan Hussong, contact Cornerstone Dental Group at (515) 984-6001. We welcome patients of all ages living in Ames, Ankeny, Alleman, Grimes, West Des Moines, and the surrounding areas.