Hormones play an important role in regulating our bodies, particularly for women. Women face an increased sensitivity to dental health because of the unique hormonal changes they experience in their bodies. Due to these changes, women are more vulnerable to periodontal disease at a certain stage of their lives, as well as to other oral diseases. Women in general, have heightened immunity, but yet are more vulnerable to diseases.
What are the causes and symptoms of hormonal changes that may affect oral health in women?
A woman’s life is divided into different stages, which come along with hormonal changes, making them more susceptible to certain diseases. Let us have a look at different stages of a woman’s life and the associated hormonal changes and how they affect dental health:
- Puberty: The sudden increase in the production of female hormones – estrogen and progesterone, occurs during puberty. At this stage blood flow is increased for the whole body, including the gums. The blood flow changes the way gum tissue reacts with bacterial plaque. During this stage, the gum tissue might often become tender, red and swollen and might sometimes bleed while brushing teeth.
- The monthly menstruation cycle: Due to hormonal changes or increases in progesterone, that occur during the menstrual cycle, many women may experience swollen and red gums, swollen salivary glands, development of sores and bleeding gums. Menstruation gingivitis is very common during this stage, and usually vanishes on own after period clears up.
- Use of oral contraceptives or birth control pills: Women taking oral contraceptives containing progesterone, might suffer from gum diseases such as swollen gums and tissues, bleeding gums etc. However, newer birth control pills, have lower concentrations of hormones, which lessens the other complications or inflammation to the gums from dental plaque.
If you plan to visit a dentist for treating these problems, make sure you tell your dentist about oral contraceptive pills that you are consuming. There are certain medicines or antibiotics that your dentist might prescribe to lower the overall effectiveness of oral contraceptives, at least, to reduce the negative effects of contraceptives.
- Pregnancy: Hormone level increases, during pregnancy, increasing the levels of progesterone. Progesterone as already said increases the complications in tooth and gums, aggravating already infected gums and tooth. Your dentist might recommend more frequent visits for professional cleanings while you are pregnant, particularly during the second and third trimester.
- Menopause: Oral changes occur as people age. Till the time women reach menopause, they develop numerous other diseases, if not very conscious about health and lifestyle. Menopause in women brings about a lot of changes in the body. Oral changes might include food aversions, change in taste, and dry mouth due to decreased salivary flow. Decrease in estrogen can lead to loss to bone mass and osteoporosis, and also inflammation of tissues in the mouth.
It is surprising to know that hormone surges can have impact on gums and oral health. We would never have thought this way or even have had the idea that hormones can have impact on oral health and tooth. The main players’ estrogen and progesterone can bring about drastic changes in our body, without we may even noticing it.
Although hormones are not the primary cause of tooth problems, but is one of the cause that might even affect our mouth as well. Tooth problems are majorly caused by lack of maintaining proper oral hygiene, lack of essential nutrients, vitamins and most importantly calcium.
Hormones not only affect women, but also men at large. A low testosterone in men can lead to poor health and other serious issues like loss of jaw bone over time, and other dental problems such as chipped teeth, lack of tooth mass, or extreme pain.
Calcium, vegetables, beans and seeds are few food options that can restore teeth health. Consuming them religiously for the entire year may keep away dental problems arising from hormonal imbalances. Hormonal imbalances in our body from time to time is inevitable. We may not even realize this, without blood tests being done, the hormonal surge and downfall in our body, and how it is affecting us.
How to prevent hormonal mouth ulcers?
Mouth ulcers are painful sores, just like boils that appear in the mouth, on the tongue or on the wall of the cheek. Although they are harmless, but really uncomfortable and irritating. Most of the times, they clear up on their own, without any medication. But sometimes they stay over.
At that time we need to visit a doctor and get proper treatment.
Most of the time boils such as mouth ulcers and pimples occur due to hormonal imbalances in body. Let us look at few tips that can speed up healing:
- applying a protective paste recommended by your dentist
- using a soft toothbrush to brush your teeth
- Be careful in avoiding tooth paste containing sodium lauryl sulphate, as this might irritate your ulcers.
- Avoiding hard, spicy, salty, acidic or hot food and drink, till the ulcer heals completely.
- Using a straw to drink cold liquid drinks
- Avoiding things that might trigger the mouth ulcers.
We all know that some girls, might be experiencing mouth-ulcers each time before and during menstruation — the reason being the fluctuation of hormones. The two main hormones known for affecting women’s health are — estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. It is important to note that there is a great effect on the oral health of women during the phase of menstruation. Hormonal changes cause or give rise to certain dental problems like puffy gums, dry mouth, etc.
Developing gingivitis prior to starting of periods in women or girls are very common. Gingivitis is a condition of gums where the gums become red, swollen and irritable. The problem of gingivitis is temporary and usually ends with the end of menstruation cycle. Developing a bad breath during periods is very common and can be found in most girls during their periods, because of lesser saliva in the mouth.
A dry mouth during periods also gives an unpleasant experience resulting from the oral bacteria which give out an odour when the mouth is dry. It has been found that high levels of progesterone during menstruation, make the oral mucosal tissue swell, triggering the growth of harmful bacteria, which causes the odour and affects immune function.
The production of collagen is also reduced to a considerable extent, which reduces the tissue’s ability to repair itself. More than average or normal levels of estrogen speeds up metabolism and results in loss of the mineral folate- which is important for maintaining healthier oral tissues. On the other hand, a low level of estrogen can end up causing osteoporosis of the jaw — welcoming other dental issues in the future.
Certain studies have revealed that hormonal fluctuations in both men and women can also lead to oral herpes — a condition in which there are dry or wet sores on the lips, gums, tongue, etc. Overconsumption of birth control pills are also responsible for increased the chances of developing ulcers and gingivitis during periods. To get rid of ulcers quickly, one should use a soft toothbrush, eat foods that are soft on the mouth and eat a healthy diet. Alternatively one can always consult a dentist if the ulcers are not going away, even after treatment.
Dry lips and hormonal imbalance
Dry or cracked lips are often associated with menopause. Older women do not have the full luscious lips of their youth, and applying lipstick may just make it more eminent. However dry lips can also occur during or before the periods start in women. It can also happen in men due to hormonal changes. Dry lips may be accompanied by a dry mouth and skin.
In some women it is often found that the face skin dries up before the menstruation starts, resulting in flaky and dull skin. In men too, sometimes it is found that they have dry and flaky skin, without having any obvious reason behind the same. When hormonal changes take place, salivary glands produce comparatively lesser saliva as compared to normal times. Lack of saliva leads to dry mouth and chipped lips.
Caffeine in moderate amounts are considered safe to consume, but consuming large amount of caffeine can disturb the hormones of our body and cause damage to our teeth. It is well known that amount of caffeine you consume can directly affect the health and appearance of your teeth. Knowing this can help you restrict your caffeine intake and how much you consume each day. Consuming caffeine at intervals for the entire day is considered way too much, and must be avoided at all cost.
Hormones and gum recession
The decreased estrogen levels after menopause also puts aged women at risk for a loss of bone density. Immediate signs of bone loss in jaw are receding gums. As the gums recede, the tooth is exposed putting aged women more at risk of decay. Women already have the complaint of decreased calcium and osteoporosis. With menopause, their discomfort further increases, adding to more trouble.
Some older women also experience discoloration of tooth and gap occurring between teeth. Gap between the tooth are very painful at times, when food gets stuck between them. Discoloration caused due to hormonal changes are often irreversible. Also the gums become sensitive and they may experience a burning sensation on consumption of spicy or hot foods. When using the wrong tooth brush, older women, who already had their menopause, might experience bleeding from the gums, while brushing.
Hormones and teeth sensitivity
Some people may notice that foods taste different that they did earlier or prior to getting periods or after menopause. At the same time food cravings and aversions might happen. They may even develop a condition called burning mouth syndrome, which is very comfortable and overwhelming at times.
Due to certain hormonal imbalances in body, our tooth enamel may wear down, exposing the layer beneath known as dentin. Dentin in the layer that contain tubes, and is responsible for connecting out teeth with our nerves. Out tooth nerves are extremely sensitive to temperature changes. This is the reason we feel the hot and cold sensation on tooth when our tooth is ingested with cavities destroying the tooth enamel, dentin.
Teeth Sensitivity although might not sound to be too serious an issue, but in real life is quite uncomfortable and overwhelming to face. When happening to older women, it might be even more painful. Oral health and dental problems even if caused by hormones, should never be ignored at any cost. Oral Health affects mental and physical health at the same time.
During the pandemic, oral health of people worldwide has been neglected like never before, primarily because opening of mouth and nose was strictly prohibited fearing infection or spread of infections. This has also led to aggravated mouth diseases and death for many, since they could not be treated on time. In some cases they could not be treated at all.
The issue with hormonal changes and oral health is that one cannot avoid hormonal changes happening inside the body, neither alter it. Women are highly vulnerable to this. They can hardly control the hormonal changes happening inside the body, nor can they help the complications arising out of it.
Hormonal shifts are absolutely natural and normal throughout your life, but they aren’t pleasant at all. Good self-care, including carefully brushing and regularly flossing goes a long way in balancing the dental effects of hormones.
However, keeping your regular appointments with dentist is crucial, at the same time. If you find yourself experiencing problems with your teeth and gums related to a hormonal change, immediately speak to your dentist and schedule appointments for a time in your cycle wherein your gums are less likely to be irritated or sensitive to ensure both your and your child’s health. It’s important to consider regularly visiting your dentist during pregnancy to be sure of your reproductive health at this point of time.
Tooth pain during ovulation
Many women experience tooth pain during ovulation when hormonal fluctuations throughout the body takes place. This pain is associated with the accumulation of bacteria in the oral cavity which happens due to changes in blood flow in the blood vessels of the tooth and change in saliva levels. Some people also experience an increase in sensitivity to hot and cold, in their teeth.
When teeth starts to pain, in a matter of two to four days, you may find that you are getting your periods. These toothache often might lead to other problems such as headaches, back pain, shoulder pain, pain in the lower abdomen. Additionally a deficiency of Vitamin B may cause toothache problem to worsen over time.
Vitamin supplements are very important for our body. They help in breaking down the nutrients of the body to be absorbed by our cells. Calcium needs vitamins to break it down and make them absorbable by the body.
Painkillers can relieve pain temporarily, but also has their side effects. Hormonal changes cannot be avoided, only we faced and taken precautions beforehand. Precautions however cannot stop their occurrence. But only lessen our suffering.
Essential Vitamins to Strengthen teeth and gums
As we all are aware about how good dental hygiene is important for maintaining the health of teeth and gums, but there is also an extra step we must take to prevent gum disease and tooth decay. Our diet is not sufficient to adequately provide the nutrients necessary for healthy teeth and gums. Incorporating fruits and vegetables having higher fiber content, while avoiding refined carbohydrates, saturated fats, foods containing excessive salt, caffeine and excess sugar is of course beneficial, but vitamin supplements play an important role in maintaining our overall health, particularly healthy tooth and gums.
Vitamin A is needed heal inflamed gum tissues. This vitamin is responsible for maintaining the mucous membranes, tooth enamel and soft tissue of the gums. A deficiency of vitamin A in our body can lead to lower resistance to infections and diseases. Beef, liver, mutton, milk, cheese and eggs are all good food sources of vitamin A. When taking supplements, remember to take at mealtime, preferably during lunch as fat aids in the absorption of the vitamin.
Vitamin B deficiencies causes toothaches, swollen gums and sensitivity of the mucous membranes in the mouth. Vitamin B complex supplements are best to be taken under the tongue for good absorption. Mushrooms, meat and fish, are good food sources of the vitamin B. All yellow colored fruits and vegetables contain vitamin B. Eg, Pumpkin, banana, carrots, oranges, papaya etc.
For healing of bleeding gums, vitamin C is essential and is the most reliable forms of preventing gum inflammation. Bioflavonoids, a substance found in the natural pigments in fruits and vegetables, taken with vitamin C can also help prevent the formation of plaque, responsible for formation of cavities, around the teeth.
Vitamin D , consumed in adequate amounts can also help prevent inflammation of the gums. It is also important in the absorption of calcium by our body. A vital nutrient which is also very important for our bones and healthy teeth. The source of vitamin D is sun exposure, but this nutrient can also be found in cheese, milk and fatty fish.
Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant, also very important for our skin that can be taken as a capsule form or opened and rubbed on our gums for tissue healing. It also relieves soreness of gums during infant teething, which is very vital. Foods high in vitamin E includes sunflower seeds, turnip greens, tomato paste and peanut butter.