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Women & Periodontal Health
Posted on 9/3/2017 by Dr. Karl Zeren
Throughout a woman's life, hormonal changes affect tissue throughout the body. Fluctuations in these hormone levels occur during puberty, pregnancy and menopause. At these times, the risk of developing periodontal problems may increase, requiring special care of your oral health.

During puberty, there is a marked increase in the production of sex hormones. These higher hormonal levels increase gum sensitivity and may lead to an exaggerated reaction from plaque. The gums can become swollen, turn red, and feel tender.

Similar symptoms occasionally appear several days before menstruation and are again an exaggerated reaction due to increased hormonal levels. There can be bleeding of the gums, bright red swelling between the teeth and gum, or sores on the inside of the cheek. The symptoms clear up once the period has started and the amount of sex hormones decrease.

Pregnant women who have periodontal disease may be seven times more likely to have a baby that is born too early and too small.

For a long time we’ve known that risk factors such as smoking, alcohol use, and drug use contribute to mothers having babies that are born prematurely, having a low birth weight.

Now evidence is mounting that suggests a new risk factor – periodontal disease. Pregnant women who have periodontal disease may be seven times more likely to have a baby that is born too early and too small.

More research is needed to confirm how periodontal disease may affect pregnancy outcomes. It appears that periodontal disease triggers increased levels of biological fluids that induce labor. Furthermore, data suggests that women whose periodontal condition worsens during pregnancy have an even higher risk of having a premature baby.

Periodontal health should be part of your prenatal care. All infections are cause for concern among pregnant women because they pose a risk to the health of the baby. We recommend that women considering pregnancy have a periodontal evaluation.

Studies have also shown that in women who undergo active periodontal therapy during pregnancy these risks are all but eliminated. The best way to prevent periodontal infection is to begin with healthy gums and teeth. You can continue to maintain your oral health with proper home care and careful periodontal monitoring.

The soft tissues around your teeth are also affected during pregnancy. Between the second and eighth month, your gums may also swell, bleed, and become tender due to the hormonal changes. Soft tissue lumps may appear as a reaction to the hormonal changes and local irritants. These growths are generally painless and are not a real source of worry. They may require professional removal, but often disappear after pregnancy.

Oral Contraceptives
Swelling, bleeding, and tenderness of the gums may also occur when you are taking oral contraceptives, which are synthetic sex hormones. These synthetic hormones signal to your body that you are pregnant, although you are not. This may also lead to an exaggerated tissue response in your mouth.

It is essential that you mention any prescriptions you are taking, including oral contraceptives, prior to medical or dental treatment. This will help to minimize the risk of undesirable drug interactions. There have been reports in the medical and dental literature of unplanned pregnancy when antibiotics were prescribed for women using oral contraception. We have come to understand that the antibiotics can alter the bacterial population in the intestine responsible for processing the contraceptive medication, thereby inactivating the contraceptive effect.

Changes in the look and feel of your mouth may occur if you are menopausal or post-menopausal. They include feeling soreness and burning of your tongue and gum tissues which can alter your sense of taste.

Careful oral hygiene at home and professional cleaning may relieve these symptoms. There are also saliva substitutes to treat the effects of dry mouth.

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