Hormonal changes can wreak havoc on a woman’s body, but many women don’t realize the impact these changes can have on parts of the body they take for granted – including gums. Research suggests that there is a strong relationship between puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, oral contraceptives, and menopause when it comes to hormonal changes. These hormones play a large part in keeping your mouth healthy and free of gum disease. Women, however, aren’t the only ones susceptible to gum disease later in life or throughout – guys, you’re just as susceptible.
During menopause, estrogen and progesterone change, and this is where the mouth becomes at risk for gingivitis. Women are more susceptible because of their unique hormone changes. The declining levels of estrogen greatly effect gums and make menopausal women less sensitive to sucrose. This lack of sensitivity leads to more sugar intake, and if this type of diet continues for a length of time, it can affect their overall dental health.
The increased sugar intake, coupled with the concentration of hormones are the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. Increased progesterone levels change the existing microbial populations and the bacteria increase as a result of the high concentration of hormones. Bacteria use the nutrients to continue growing.
Post-menopausal woman are also susceptible to a rare condition called desquamative gingivitis. This condition is similar to gingivitis but far more painful as the gums recede from the teeth. There are however similar symptoms a menopausal woman faces that certain drugs cause, both resulting in an increased risk for gingivitis in men and women.
Menopausal women often complain of dry mouth, a common result of many drugs that are regularly prescribed. Saliva is the mouth’s first line of defense against bacteria, and a dry mouth weakens this defense. Saliva contains oxygen that helps eliminate bacteria from the mouth, a lack of saliva cannot neutralize the acids produced by plaque because there is not enough saliva to cleanse the area. It is not only prescription drugs that cause dry mouth that may affect ones likeliness to develop gingivitis, but there are many over-the-counter medications on the market that can effect oral health.
There are drugs that can facilitate the development of gingivitis due to other side effects that may occur. The most common ones are Phenytoin, Calcium Channel Blockers, Cyclosporine, and Oral Contraceptives. Oral contraceptives cause hormonal changes that are similar to those seen in pregnancy, and work in a similar fashion to promote bacterial growth like the hormonal changes during pregnancy and menopause. Other drugs promote excessive gum growth making it harder to clean around teeth and trapping bacteria under the gums. Treatment is often simple whether the cause is hormonal changes, or side effects caused by medication.
Treating gingivitis in a menopausal woman often requires hormonal supplements to address the issue of hormonal imbalances. Usually this is enough to clear up the gingivitis. In the case of excessive gum growth, it may be necessary to remove gum tissue. It is possible that more frequent dental visits are enough to clear up gingivitis.
If you’re worried about hormonal changes and your oral health, regardless of your age, it’s best to come see us sooner rather than later so we can help you understand the unique relationship between your mouth and changes in the body.