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Practicing good oral hygiene is essential for everyone, but women have dental health concerns that men don’t. Women are more susceptible to hormonal changes during puberty, pregnancy, and menopause, which can affect their oral health.
Understanding the connection between oral and overall health can help women adequately care for themselves, especially during vulnerable times.
Hormonal events and imbalances can impact women’s oral health. Women must take special care of their dental hygiene during vulnerable times, such as pregnancy and menopause.
Knowing how hormones and other factors can affect oral health is helpful.
Puberty causes estrogen and progesterone levels to rise in girls. These increased hormones can cause higher bacteria growth, which can cause gum disease and gingivitis.8
Only 22 to 34% of women in the U.S. consult a dentist during pregnancy.9 However, practicing good oral hygiene is vital during pregnancy, as it can impact both the mother and child.
Hormone fluctuations associated with pregnancy can cause gingivitis and gum disease. Acid from morning sickness and vomiting can lead to tooth erosion.
Studies show that oral health concerns may also cause issues for the child. Periodontitis, for example, may be associated with preterm birth and low birth weight.9 Practicing good oral hygiene can lead to positive outcomes for the baby.
Menopause, when the menstrual cycle ends, is a physiological event women experience later in life. It decreases the hormones, including estrogen and progesterone, that increase during puberty and menstruation.
Many post-menopausal women report oral discomfort, including dry mouth, burning mouth, and pain. Sixty percent of post-menopausal women experience periodontal issues due to hormone decline.10
Taking oral contraceptives or birth control can affect women’s oral health. Research has shown that women who take oral contraceptives have:
Thyroid disease occurs more commonly in women, with up to 5% of the female population experiencing alterations in thyroid function.12 It’s even more common to have thyroid dysfunction after pregnancy.
Women with thyroid disease may experience increased gum bleeding and are more susceptible to infection.
Women face many health concerns that are unique to them, especially with hormonal fluctuations. These health concerns can also negatively impact their oral health and include:
Osteoporosis is a condition that weakens bones and makes them brittle. It commonly develops at older ages.
Women are more likely to develop osteoporosis than men. About 18.8% of women over 50 report osteoporosis in their neck and spine, as opposed to 4.2% of men over 50.1
Studies have found osteoporosis correlates to oral health conditions such as periodontal disease, reduced jaw bone density, and tooth loss.2
Eating disorders, especially anorexia and bulimia, are more prevalent in women than men.3 These disorders can have negative repercussions on oral health.
People with anorexia show a higher likelihood of neglecting their dental care.4 People who engage in self-induced vomiting may see erosion of their teeth. This is due to the chemical effects of regurgitating gastric acid.
Temporomandibular disorders (TMDs) are a group of disorders that cause dysfunction in the jaw and its mobility. Women are at a higher risk of developing TMD than men, and they report more orofacial pain than their male counterparts.5
Some studies suggest that the development of TMD in women may have a hormonal component, but further research is necessary to confirm this.4
Sjögren’s syndrome is an immune system disorder characterized by dry eyes and a dry mouth. It occurs more frequently in women than men, at a 16:1 ratio.6
This syndrome affects the salivary gland, causing it to reduce the production of saliva. Dry mouth can lead to increased tooth decay and oral thrush. Regular dental visits and treatment can help manage Sjögren’s syndrome in women.
Socioeconomic factors can affect women’s oral health, too. Women in low-income households or who are uninsured are less likely to receive necessary dental care. In 2018, 23.5% of women reported an untreated dental health issue.7
Women are also more likely to be victims of violence that can result in a dental injury, especially domestic violence.4 Trauma or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can make visiting the dentist a distressing experience, which may prevent some women from seeking care.
Women should always engage in good oral hygiene practices, regardless of the stage of their life. Follow these tips to keep your teeth, mouth, and entire body healthy:
If you’re experiencing hormonal changes, be extra vigilant of your oral health. Consult your dentist to better understand how to care for your oral health.
Visit your dentist at least twice a year for standard check-ups. Also, see them if anything changes in your hormonal health, you become pregnant, or you notice any of the following symptoms:
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