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Does biology affect women’s dental health or men’s dental health? The short answer is yes. Hormones especially estrogen and progesterone do influence gum health especially during changing life phases which result in shifts in hormone balance. In some cases, testosterone balance may also affect oral health.
Changes in gum health due to hormones make your daily oral hygiene routine even more important to your overall health. Regardless of biological gender, we encourage all our patients to consistently follow the basics of good oral hygiene to mitigate any vulnerabilities caused by hormonal fluctuations. These basics include:
- Gently brush your teeth twice daily with a soft-bristled toothbrush.
- Floss daily.
- Consider whether a mouthwash would be beneficial.
- See your dentist on your recommended schedule for a professional cleaning and examination. Discuss any changes in your health and life, especially those that alter your hormones.
The following information is purely educational and not meant to replace medical or dental care. Hormones are complicated and so is their interaction with your oral health. Awareness of potential changes may empower you to make the best decisions for yourself and your family, but different people experience different effects.
Do Biology and Gender Make a Difference in Women’s Dental Health vs Men’s?
Before we describe how gender hormones may alter oral health, we want to explain why it matters. While the exact cause is still being researched, there is a strong correlation between heart disease and gum disease. A common theory is that chronic low-level inflammation from gum disease somehow makes the heart more vulnerable. Other theories have to do with the bacterial build-up that causes the gums to become swollen and infected. This correlation may seem even stronger in people with diabetes.
Further complicating matters, women tend to experience gum inflammation more as their hormones fluctuate such as during puberty, pregnancy, just before a monthly period, during perimenopause, or while taking hormonal contraception. People are often surprised to learn that heart disease is the number one killer of women, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Taking care of one’s gums seems even more important considering the complicated connections between women’s hormones, gum health, and heart health.
While the connection is more clear with women, that doesn’t mean that men are immune. Some emerging science also recognizes a connection between male hormones and gum disease. In addition, the correlation between gum health and heart health seems to apply to everyone regardless of gender.
How Hormones Impact Women’s Dental Health
Female hormone balance changes throughout a woman’s lifetime. These hormonal changes impact gum health and women’s dental health.
- Puberty: Rapidly changing and surging hormones increase blood flow to the gums and increases the rate the gums react to bacteria in the mouth. This results in gums that get more easily inflamed or swollen. Similar changes happen throughout a woman’s life during life phases involving hormonal fluctuations.
- Menstruation: Many women experience swollen and bleeding gums in the days or the week leading up to their monthly periods. If a woman is prone to cold sores, these may also flare-up.
- Use of oral contraceptives: these also may cause gum swelling
- Pregnancy: Taking care of the gums is very important during pregnancy since many women who are expecting also experience gingivitis when the build-up of dental plaque irritates and inflames their gums.
- Perimenopause and menopause: The shifting hormones bring a range of dental side effects including dry mouth, a change in taste sensations, inflamed gums, and oral pain.
- Bone loss or osteoporosis: Many women experience bone loss and this loss also impacts the jaw. When combined with chronic gum disease, this bone loss often results in tooth loss.
As described, throughout a woman’s life, oral care is very important since the gums are so frequently inflamed as the result of hormonal changes as well as irritation from bacteria. Healthy gums are essential to overall women’s dental health as well as general health.
In addition, women who are trying to conceive may want to pay special attention to their gum health. Some studies indicate that women with gum disease often take at least two months longer to conceive than those with healthy gums. While there may be other lifestyle factors involved, healthy gums before pregnancy also put an expectant mother in a stronger position during pregnancy when hormonal changes make the gums more vulnerable to gingivitis.
Be sure to talk with your dentist about any changes that may change your dental care needs. For example, if you are pregnant or trying to conceive share that information with your dental team when you check in as the practice may need to update your chart.
Hormones Impact on Men’s Dental Health
While the connection between oral health and female hormones is clear, the connection is not quite as clear for male hormones. Some studies indicate that low levels of testosterone may contribute to gum disease or periodontal disease. This is an emerging area of medical research and the results are not yet conclusive. However, if this concerns you please discuss it with your dentist and take care to follow your dentist’s oral hygiene recommendations.
While gender and life phases may highlight the importance of gum health, oral health recommendations are similar throughout an adult’s life. Daily at-home dental care combined with regular professional care are both essential, whether you are concerned with women’s dental health or men’s dental health.
A professional dental cleaning and examination may be the perfect opportunity to reset your habits as you transition between life phases. Since so many hormonal changes influence how the gums respond to bacteria, the cleaning gives you a good starting point to achieve better results from your daily brushing and flossing routine.
Contact us today to schedule your appointment if you are looking for a dentist in or near Charlotte, NC.