All her life, a woman will have times when she must take special care of her health. Puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause are the special times of her life. She will have many healthcare needs during these special times, one of them will be protecting her oral health from the changes her body is undergoing.
Puberty is when there is an increase in her hormone levels. This increase causes many major changes in her body including an increase in progesterone and possibly estrogen, which will cause an increase in the amount of blood that circulates to her gums. This increased blood supply may cause greater sensitivity which may lead to gum irritation from food particles and plaque that become deposited on her teeth and gums while she eats. Her gums may become swollen, become redder and feel tender.
As the woman goes further on through the puberty years, her gums will become less sensitive, so irritants won’t tend to bother her gums as much.
It is vital that during puberty, every woman protects her oral health by brushing her teeth after each meal, floss daily and use a mouth rinse daily. Her dentist may decide to prevent damage to the tissues and bone that surround her teeth by doing periodontal therapy.
During each monthly menstruation a young woman may experience something called, “menstruation gingivitis”. This is a condition that only lasts during the days of her period and then will clear up once her period has ended. She may not get it with every cycle, or quite possibly she may get it everytime. The symptoms of “menstruation gingivitis” are:
- Bleeding gums
Bright red, swollen gums
Sores on the inside of her mouth
As during other times of her life, she needs to take special care of herself by eating nutritious meals and snacks, getting plenty of rest and following good oral hygiene habits. She should continue to brush after meals, even if her gums bleed. It is even more important to remove food particles in between her teeth when her gums are sensitive.
A woman may experience gingivitis again at this special time of her life, except this time it is called, appropriately, “pregnancy gingivitis”. Pregnancy gingivitis if she is going to get it, usually occurs during the second or third month of her pregnancy. The gingivitis may increase in severity as she advances in her pregnancy and up to her eith month of pregnancy.
She may notice gums that bleed and swell, become reddened and may be tender. She may notice large lumps on her gums that are caused by irritants. These lumps are called, “pregnancy tumors”, and are not cancerous and are usually painless and harmless. These lumps will disappear after delivery of the baby. If however, they persist, a periodontist may have to remove them surgically.
There have been some studies conducted that have linked periodontal disease with pre-term or low-birth-weight babies. Any infection during pregnancy is serious, including gum infections.
Scheduling an oral exam during your pre-pregnancy planning is a wise idea and will be one more thing you can do to actively care for the health of your unborn baby.
Women who use oral contraceptives may develop the same oral health conditions that women do during pregnancy and should also follow good oral hygiene and see their dentist at regular intervals (usually every 6 months) while taking oral contraceptives.
Menopause and Post-Menopausal Women
Women who have begun process of menopause or who are post-menopausal may also experience changes in their oral health. They may experience dry mouth more often, have pain or burning sensations in their gum tissue. They may also experience a new taste in their mouth that what they have previously experienced that may taste salty, peppery or sour.
Like other special times of change, there is a gingivitis that is special for this time of her life called, “menopausal gingivostomatitis“. This however only affects a small percentage of women in this group. If they have menopausal gingivostomatitis, the symptoms are:
- Gums that look dry or shiny
Gums that bleed easily
Gums that are pale to deep red in color
Estrogen supplements may relieve symptoms of menopausal gingivostomatitis, so ask your dentist or gynecologists if you have any questions concerning estrogen supplementation.
As women age bone loss is a concern and can be a part of both periodontal disease and osteoporosis. There may be a connection between the two conditions; research is currently being conducted to investigate the possibility.
As with other stages of her life, it is important to continue good oral hygiene habits.