The surprising link between female hormones and oral health

Women’s Health Week starts in May, so now is a great time to learn about the connection between female hormones and oral health.

The two main female hormones, estrogen and progesterone, can increase gum sensitivity and cause overreactions to plaque and bacteria.1 These hormones fluctuate throughout a woman’s life based on hormonal events, such as puberty, menstruation cycles, pregnancy and menopause. Hormone fluctuations may make you more susceptible to gum disease, which can cause gums to swell, bleed and become inflamed.1

If you develop gingivitis, the early form of gum disease, professional dental cleanings, better brushing and improved flossing can usually reverse it.2 To treat more advanced gum disease with bone loss around the teeth, your dentist may recommend scaling and root planning or more extensive surgical procedures.3

A quick tip: Schedule dental appointments about a week after your period. Gums are usually more sensitive and likely to bleed if you visit the dentist right before or during your period.

Women going through menopause should pay close attention to their oral health. While no two women will have the same experience, you can be prepared for what might come your way. Read up on two common oral health conditions that can accompany menopause – dry mouth and burning mouth syndrome.

If you experience a decrease in saliva flow when menopause occurs, you’re probably suffering from dry mouth.1 Dry mouth can lead to cavities, which is one thing you won’t want to deal with on top of everything else. At-home remedies are a great first step for treatment. Try drinking more water, picking up over-the-counter dry mouth spray and sucking on ice chips and sugar-free candy (resist the urge to bite down on them). Even with these countermeasures, you will still want to chat with your dentist who may recommend brushing with prescription-strength fluoride toothpaste and sleeping with a humidifier. Your dentist may also suggest adjusting what you eat by avoiding salty, spicy, sticky and sugary foods.

A bit more unpleasant than dry mouth, burning mouth syndrome can also follow menopause.4 People with burning mouth syndrome experience burning, tingling or numbness that can affect the whole mouth or particular areas, including the gums, lips, palate and most commonly, the tongue. These sensations may feel like a minor tingling5 or more intense like burning your mouth with hot coffee.6

But don’t fear – there are multiple treatment options. Your dentist will review your symptoms, medical history and current medications to determine the cause. Some common treatments include using saliva-replacement products; eliminating gum, mouthwash and acidic liquids; and asking your physician about adjusting your medications. If oral health conditions like dry mouth aren’t the culprit, your dentist may refer you to a physician for blood work and treatment.

From puberty to menopause, female hormone fluctuations cause changes to oral health. By working with your dentist and knowing what to expect, you can keep your mouth healthy through all the ups and downs.


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