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from the Academy of General Dentistry

Friday, February 3, 2023
Know Your Teeth Academy of General Dentistry Know Your Teeth


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Why Is Oral Health Important for Women?

Chapter: Stages of Women's Oral Health

Puberty: The surge in hormones that occurs during puberty may cause swollen gums, especially during menstruation. Mouth sores also can develop. Girls may experience sensitive gums that react more to irritants.

Oral contraceptives: Oral contraceptives mimic pregnancy because they contain progesterone or estrogen. Therefore gingivitis may occur with long-term use. Women who use birth control pills are twice as likely to develop dry socket (a complication of tooth extraction) and should consult their dentist before scheduling major dental procedures. 

Pregnancy: Pregnant women have a risk for increased inflammation of the gums because of the surge in estrogen and progesterone. If irritating plaque isn't removed, it can cause gingivitis - red, swollen, tender gums that are more likely to bleed. In some cases, large lumps called pregnancy tumors - inflammatory, non-cancerous growths that develop when swollen gums react strongly to irritants, can develop. Usually these tumors shrink soon after the pregnancy is over. Women with periodontal disease may be at risk for preterm, low birthweight babies. If a women experiences morning sickness, it is important to neutralize the acid caused by vomiting, which causes tooth erosion. Patients can use a paste made of baking soda and water, rubbing it on the teeth. After 30 seconds, rinse off the paste, then brush and floss. If this is not possible, rinse with water.

Menopause: During menopause, some women can experience dry mouth, a burning sensation and changes in taste. Gums can become sore and sensitive.

Other factors: Diet pills and certain medications (over-the-counter and prescriptions) can decrease salivary flow, which puts patients at risk for cavities, gum disease and discomfort. Patients with eating disorders, such as bulimia (self-induced vomiting) can't hide their symptoms from their dentists because the episodes of binging and purging cause erosion on the backside of the upper front teeth. (An additional sign is sores that appear at the corners of the mouth.) Smoking also creates a higher risk for periodontal disease.
Reviewed: January 2012