Hormones can have a wide range of effects on the body. Different phases of life throw the hormones out of whack, which is why teenagers get acne, pregnant women experience morning sickness, and menopausal women get hot flashes.
However, most individuals who experience hormone changes are not overly concerned about their teeth. Unfortunately, because hormones influence every system in the body, the resulting changes may negatively affect an individual’s oral health.
Is it true, however, that hormonal instability causes gum disease? Let’s have a look at this issue.
How Do Hormonal Changes Affect Gum Disease?
Hormonal changes do not cause gum disease on their own, but they can contribute to periodontal disease. Hormones (particularly estrogen and progesterone) influence the gums by altering blood flow to the gums and the way tissues respond to plaque in the mouth; this causes discomfort and, in some cases, bleeding when brushing or flossing.
Hormonal influences on gum health tend to affect women more often than men since women experience more hormone changes throughout life.
While the increased risk for gum disease occurs most often during pregnancy and menopause, many women experience symptoms during puberty and right before a monthly menstrual cycle. Even women who take birth control can notice more irritation and inflammation in the gums.
Is Pregnancy A Trigger For Periodontitis (Periodontal Disease)?
Periodontal disease (gum disease) is a common problem in the United States. It occurs in about half of all adults over the age of 30.
It may seem unfair that pregnancy makes the risk for periodontal disease even higher. Unfortunately, hormonal changes are to blame for this fact. Periodontal disease begins when bacteria in plaque and tartar start to irritate the gums.
Pregnancy increases the chances of developing gum disease due to changes in hormone levels in the body. Increases in estrogen and progesterone, in particular, affect how the gums react to harmful bacteria contained in plaque. This is why it is so important that women take care of their oral health during pregnancy.
The first signs of gingivitis and periodontal disease are:
- red gums
- bleeding during brushing and flossing
The consequences can worsen for both you and your baby if left untreated. But how exactly does this affect your child?
How Maternal Gum Disease Can Affect Your Baby
As an expectant mother, you have a lot on your mind, and you know that your health affects your new baby’s health as well. You may be unaware that gingivitis and periodontal disease in mothers have a connection to several problems in newborns.
Studies have shown that pregnancy gingivitis and periodontal disease have been associated with preterm delivery and low birth weight. Research indicates that this has to do with the bacteria that enter the bloodstream through the gums, affecting the reproductive system.
However, pregnant women who have periodontal disease are at increased risk for these and other problems.
The Link Between Pregnancy Tumors And Periodontal Disease
Pregnancy tumors sound terrifying to most expectant mothers but are a common symptom of gingivitis and gum disease during pregnancy. Pregnancy tumors most commonly appear during the second trimester, though they can form at any time during pregnancy.
The tumors appear as lumps in the gum, usually near the top gum line, and are red, often glistening. They can bleed, crust over, and be very uncomfortable for women who develop them.
They occur in about 10% of pregnant women and are non-cancerous. They are simply an inflammatory response to oral bacteria and food particles, exaggerated by pregnancy hormones. While many pregnancy tumors will go away on their own, others may need to be removed by a dentist. Unfortunately, they sometimes reappear after removal and must be handled.
Are There Any Ways To Prevent These Effects?
While it’s not always possible to prevent pregnancy-related gingivitis and periodontal disease, there are steps you can take to help reduce risks.
Practicing diligent oral hygiene is the best way to fight periodontal disease, whether or not you are pregnant. Brushing at least twice a day (using the proper techniques), flossing daily, and regular visits to the dentist will help keep your gums healthy and prevent inflammation.
People going through hormonal changes or hormone treatments need to be particularly careful with their oral health. Women who are either pregnant, menopausal, or on hormonal birth control should pay special attention to brushing and flossing regularly and schedule regular dental cleanings to monitor for periodontal disease.
Some specialists recommend making an appointment with the dentist every three months throughout pregnancy to help prevent gum disease.
Rinsing the mouth with baking soda can help remove some acids that contribute to gum issues. Women should ask their dentists for specific tips to help prevent oral issues during pregnancy or menopause.
If Worried, Try Talking To An Expert Today!
If you think you might be seeing early signs of periodontal disease, it’s important to schedule a dentist appointment. If caught early, gum disease is much easier to treat than if the disease is allowed to become more advanced.
Regular cleanings and dental exams will help keep gum disease in check. So, even if you’re not worried about periodontal issues, it’s important to stay proactive. Sometimes, gum disease does not produce alarming symptoms at first.
Need an expert in gum health? John P. Gallardo, DDS, PA, is renowned for his knowledge and expertise in periodontal disease treatment. He can assure the utmost care for all expecting mothers or patients undergoing hormonal changes. To learn more or to schedule an appointment, fill out our contact form below. We’re happy to help you!