The Unique Oral Health Needs of Women

Due to the many changes that occur in the lifetime of a woman, their health and oral care needs are unique. Puberty, pregnancy, menstruation, menopause and postmenopause all influence their treatment plan and how dental needs are met.



Hormonal fluctuations change the oral tissue, and an increase in hormones can even promote the growth of harmful bacteria. From puberty into young adulthood, oral health is also complicated by poor eating habits such as increased processed sugar intake, fad diets and bulimia; this is also when smoking is often introduced. Nutritional deficiencies can change lip, mucosa and gum health, and bulimia will further delay their healing. Decay is also found at a higher rate in bulimics due to tooth erosion and poor nutrition and eating habits. Also, high levels of caffeine, protein and sodium have been linked to bone loss.

Changes associated with menstruation are not always due to the period itself, but to hormonal imbalances experienced during menstruation. Not only can the monthly cycle cause puffy, red, tender gums, it can also cause an increase in gum and tooth sensitivity. This is also a time when a woman is more vulnerable to cold sores and canker sores.

Smoking can effect how early a woman starts menopause—smoking as a teen increases the occurrence of early menopause by a factor of three—which will also increase the progression of periodontal disease due to premature hormonal fluctuation. The latest data shows that women are more susceptible to lung cancer than men, and there is evidence that estrogen-related hormones may promote cancer in women exposed to tobacco smoke, even if they are no longer a smoker.

Periodontal health in a pregnant woman can be as simple as light gingivitis or as advanced as pregnancy tumors. It is preferable that dental treatment should only received during the second trimester. Regular cleanings are an important practice to prevent bacteria from entering the bloodstream and affecting the baby. Periodontal disease during pregnancy has also been linked to preterm low birth weight. Pregnant women also need to be aware of an increase in decay if they frequently throw up (bulimia), experience a change in saliva flow or have episodes of dry mouth.

Birth control pills may cause changes similar to pregnancy, and if an antibiotic is needed for a dental infection, that will decrease the effectiveness of the birth control. It is also much safer to delay extractions during the last week of the cycle, because the lack of estrogen could cause complications leading to a dry socket condition.

Menopausal and postmenopausal women need to monitor their blood sugar levels more closely, especially if they are already diabetic, to prevent taking too high or too low a dose of insulin. The fluctuation of hormones will cause an increase of blood sugar levels in times of hot flashes and menopausal symptoms. When hormones are decreased, the blood sugar drops and there are more issues with hypoglycemia.

Bone density is another aspect of oral health to consider. Women with decreased levels of estrogen, osteoporosis or osteopenia must be careful if they are at risk of or already have gum disease, due to the potential of faster bone loss. There has also been a higher rate of failure of implants in women with low estrogen and low bone density. They should also speak with their treating medical doctor before starting any orthodontics. Possible medications such as bisphosphonate and HRT taken during this time will change how the body responds to dental treatment, and may even require specialized care for surgical treatments.

Alternatives for medications that treat low bone density, hormonal increases/decreases and menopausal symptoms can be found by working with an alternative/integrative practitioner or acupuncturist. There are also yoga stretches and special Kegel exercises that balance the hormones.

 

Dr. Andie Pearson, DMD, CSST, is the owner of Gaiamed Dental, in Wilmette, a full-service holistic dental practice using the most biocompatible dental options. For more information, call 847-977-1655 or visit HolisticDentalChicago.com.

Edit ModuleShow Tags

More from Natural Awakenings

CranioSacral Therapy Helps Alleviate

A tongue-tie refers to the frenulum within the mouth, a thin, string-like tissue underneath the tongue that connects the underside of the tongue to the floor of the mouth.

Dragon and Damsel Adults

These tiny, winged creatures with descriptive monikers such as pondhawk and baskettail flit above water and vegetation from spring through fall in the Chicago region, providing a service to humans as they snatch mosquitoes and other insects in the air.

Proven and Effective Ways to Improve Brain Health

With June dedicated to Alzheimer’s awareness and cognitive wellness, the importance of brain health is becoming more of a hot topic.

A World Without Coffee

One of the United States’ most consumed and most popular products is in jeopardy due to the lack of sustainability practices in the industry.

Celebrate Early Summer Vegetables

This month we highlight asparagus and rhubarb for the start to summer and outdoor farmers’ market season. Rhubarb is a red, tart vegetable resembling celery.

Add your comment:
Edit ModuleShow Tags

See More »This Month

A Conversation With Reneé Barasch on Digestive Health

Our bodies use enzymes to break down protein, fats, carbohydrates and fiber in the foods we eat. They allow for more nutrition and hydration to go directly into the cell and remove the waste from the cell. We can’t function without enzymes.

Wrigleyville Holistic Dentist Relocates

Wrigleyville Dental Holistic Dentistry has moved to a brand-new office at 3256 North Ashland Avenue, in Chicago.

Are You Wearing Your Smile Today?

Dr. Foad Rasekh and his team of professionals at Riverwoods Smiles have created a welcoming, modern and relaxing environment so the patients can experience exceptional dental care with a pleasant experience.

Time to Order Locally Raised Grass-Fed Beef

Terra Valley Farm, in Southwestern Wisconsin, which raises healthy, 100 percent grass-fed, organic Black Angus beef, is offering a 10 percent discount for anyone ordering a whole steer before July 1 or 5 percent off for a half-steer.

Bruce Lipton to Receive Infinity Foundation 2015 Spirit Award

The Infinity Foundation will honor Bruce Lipton, Ph.D., a cell biologist and bestselling author, at its 18th annual gala to be held May 15 at the Highland Park Country Club.

Illinois Tornado Disaster Relief Fund Underway

The Illinois Tornado Relief Effort 2015 has been created by WGN Radio, WGN-TV, the Chicago Tribune, Hoy and the McCormick Foundation to help communities struggling with weather-related devastation incurred when tornadoes ripped through central and northern Illinois on April 9.