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Caring for oral health is similar for both men and women. However, a woman’s oral health can be affected by hormonal changes throughout her lifetime, especially during pregnancy. Understanding these changes can help you or a woman in your life get the proper preventive dental care to avoid serious oral health issues.
Know the steps to take for women to keep their smile healthy.
Blood flow to gum tissues is increased by female hormones which raises the gum sensitivity to plaque and bacteria. This can cause gums to swell or bleed. While hormonal changes do not cause gum disease, they can worsen oral health issues leading to inflammation, cold sores, dry mouth and changes in taste. These changes often occur as the body produces more of the estrogen hormone at certain points in a women’s menstrual cycle.
Oral health is also affected by oral contraceptives. An example is dry socket, a painful condition which can occur if a woman has a tooth removed while taking oral contraceptives. A woman should consult her physician and dentist if she has any concerns about using oral contraceptives and changes to her oral health.
Changes in hormone levels is the most dramatic during pregnancy. At the same time, oral health problems during pregnancy are especially concerning as the baby may be impacted as well as the mother.
Expectant mothers can experience changes in hormone levels that lead to gingivitis and flare-ups of pre-existing periodontal (gum) disease. Both gingivitis and gum disease are associated with premature birth and low birth weight.
Gum disease is also associated with other health problems, including cardiovascular disease. Symptoms associated with cardiovascular disease, like high blood pressure, can lead to serious conditions like preeclampsia, impacting the health of both mother and baby.
All of these conditions are treatable, but it’s better to prevent them before they even start with proper care. Pregnant women should visit a dentist early in their pregnancy for preventive treatment and cleanings and to see if any treatment for existing oral health issues is needed.
Routine dental cleanings and most dental procedures are safe during pregnancy. A woman should inform her dentist if she’s pregnant, how far along she is in her pregnancy and if the pregnancy is high-risk. Routine dental X-rays are also safe during pregnancy since they do not cause enough radiation to harm the baby. A lead apron should be used to protect the abdomen which will also minimize a baby’s exposure to radiation.
Dental procedures such as periodontal treatment, restorations and extractions are safe and best performed during the second trimester. Root canals or other emergency treatments should not be delayed when expecting a baby.
Hormones in later years
Menopause is another hormone disrupter, causing a decrease in estrogen, which can cause oral health changes such as dry mouth or potential bone loss.
Dry mouth occurs when one experiences a decreased flow of saliva, common after menopause. Saliva is the mouth’s main defense against tooth decay. Without saliva, teeth are more susceptible to cavities.
Drinking more water, eating less salty or spicy foods and avoiding caffeine and tobacco are ways to manage dry mouth. A fluoridated toothpaste, prescribed by the dentist, can also help protect against tooth decay.
Bone loss and the diagnosis of osteoporosis is common during menopause due to the decline in estrogen levels. Bone loss in the jaw can lead to tooth loss and may trigger gum disease. The dentist can identify these signs in the mouth which is why it’s important to visit the dentist regularly.
Schedule a visit with an in-network dentist near you using our Find a Provider tool and take action for your and your family’s oral health. If you are not enrolled in dental insurance, protect yourself and your family with one of our affordable family plan options.
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* All TruAssure dental plans, other than Basic and Preferred dental plans, are offered in association with the DenteMax Plus dental network arrangement, which includes participating dentists from the DenteMax, United Concordia and Connection dental networks. TruAssure Basic and Preferred dental plans for both group and individual members are offered in association with the DenteMax dental network.
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