What Women Need to Know About Periodontal Disease

The doctors at Pittsburgh Dental Implants were willing to share some special information related to women’s dental health in the article below. We thank them for their cooperation.

Gum infections

Gum diseases stem from the dental plaque that inevitably builds up on teeth, from the toxins and bacteria that remorselessly cling to the transparent and sticky surface of teeth under attack by plaque. Not only can the tooth be affected by this bacteria and toxins, but the gums themselves are also at grave risk of being compromised. The main symptoms in gum infections are bleeding and swelling — and sometimes it is in such small amounts that only a professional dental technician can detect it. For women especially, with their hormonal changes and chemistry, it is especially important to be consistent with flossing after a thorough brushing. Do not be fooled by toothpastes that claim their use is as effective as flossing. Mechanical flossing is one of the best ways to decrease the risk of gum disease in women. Ignoring the warning signs of gum disease — the swelling and bleeding — can lead to much more serious complications that cause teeth to loosen and to fall out.  

The unique oral needs of women

All women have special needs in the dental department, and at different stages of their lives. Women are especially vulnerable to periodontal disease during youth and old age. The hormone change incident to menstruation, puberty, menopause and/or pregnancy are able to provoke increased responses to oral irritants from the denizens that inhabit the plaque that surrounds most teeth. In some women, the proclivity towards gum disease is already high — and so the hormonal changes associated with ovulation and the change in life can weaken the immune system to such an extent that oral bacteria and toxins have the opportunity to strike, and to strike hard. It cannot be emphasised enough that the main defense against gum disease and every other dental challenge is to consistently brush and floss several time a day — especially after each meal. This goes for both men AND women.

In adolescence

When a woman achieves puberty their production of the female sexual hormones estrogen and progesterone skyrockets. Consequently the circulation of blood through the gums is also increased. This in turn modifies the way gum tissue is likely to react to the toxins in plaque. The gums may turn tender and red, or swell and start to bleed when you encounter a piece of tough meat or something else that requires a lot of chewing. The teenage years, for women, are a crucial time to keep up on oral hygiene, having the teeth cleaned of plaque on a regular basis so the buildup does not interfere with the last stages of tooth growth and anchorage in the jaw. The good news is that in most cases women who experience exaggerated swelling, bleeding, and redness will see a decrease in these symptoms once they have achieved their full hormonal growth.  

The monthly cycle

With the menstruation cycle there are several changes that occur in the mouth, which can include small lesions, annoying canker sores, reddening and swollen gums, and even painful and swollen salivary glands — all of these are due to the changing hormone levels that the cycle activates. It’s by no means a standard condition for all women, but for those who, for whatever reason, have already had problems with gum disease, the symptoms can be severe right before and during menses. Once again, women should make a special effort to not let these imbalances and inconveniences deter them from keeping up with a consistent regime of oral hygiene.  

When you’re pregnant

It’s amazing to think that fifty years ago it was a common assumption that a woman would lose a tooth for every child born to them. While a complete fairy tale, there is some basis for concern for pregnant women because of the change in hormonal levels which can adversely affect both teeth and gums, along with many other tissues in a woman’s body during this nine month period. Gingivitis is a real threat to pregnant women, if they let their guard down and neglect their oral hygiene. At the first symptom of this disease — such as swollen, bleeding gums, and severe halitosis — a dentist should be consulted as soon as possible. The key seems to be to go into a pregnancy with healthy and plaque-free teeth to begin with. To be clear, at the onset of pregnancy every woman would be wise to see a dental professional for a thorough cleaning.

On occasion a noticeable swelling of the gum tissue occurs, turned a mottled pin prick red. This is called by dentists a pregnancy tumor, and is considered to be an overboard inflammation response to tiny unremoved food particles, which act as severe irritants along the gum line. Usually painless and benign, it usually happens along about month number three of pregnancy. It can become a nuisance if it interferes with the thorough chewing of food, or if it acts as a dam collecting more and more food particles behind it. It is NOT a cancerous growth, and can be taken care of by visiting your dentist to have him or her clean out the irritating particles and apply topical unguents to enable the swelling to go down naturally and painlessly. It goes without saying that any pregnant woman who experiences a pregnancy tumor should be diligent with their home oral hygiene after the swelling is taken care of by a medical professional.

One final word

For women on birth control or any other female-related medications, be sure to inform your dentist prior to any oral surgery — as these medications can affect the way you react to dental analgesics.