Hormones can trigger many different changes in the body. Different life phases cause the hormones to go haywire, which is why teens get acne, pregnant women get morning sickness, and menopausal women get hot flashes. However, most people experiencing changes in hormone levels aren’t too worried about their teeth. Unfortunately, since hormones affect every part of the body, changes can cause problems with oral health, as well. But do hormone changes actually cause gum disease? Let’s take a look.
What is Periodontal Disease?
Periodontal disease is often known as gum disease. It’s caused by bacteria from plaque opening up deepening pockets next to the teeth, which makes it difficult to clean out plaque and calculus. Over time, this causes bleeding gums, loose teeth, and worse. In a healthy mouth, “good” bacteria (the biofilm) help to protect the gums from harmful organisms. However, when the biofilm is exposed to excessive harmful bacteria, it responds by creating pathogens that cause inflammation and only make gum disease worse. So how do hormones affect this disease?
The Effects of Hormones on Gum Disease
Hormonal changes don’t directly cause gum disease, but they can be one factor in periodontal disease. Changes in the hormones (particularly estrogen and progesterone) affect the gums by changing the blood flow to the gums and affecting the way tissues respond to plaque in the mouth, causing irritation and often bleeding during brushing and flossing. Hormonal influences on gum health tend to affect women more often than men, since women go through more hormone changes throughout life. While increased risk for gum disease tends to occur 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.
The Dangers of Periodontal Disease
Gum disease presents as inflammation and is considered a chronic infection. People suffering from periodontal disease are at risk for more than just swollen, painful gums and loose teeth. The bacteria causing gum disease can easily enter the bloodstream through bleeding gums, introducing an increased risk for a wide range of health problems, including heart disease, diabetes, and even Alzheimer’s. Gingivitis is the first sign of gum disease, but it should not be ignored as it can easily worsen and turn into periodontal disease.
Preventing Periodontal Disease
People going through hormonal changes or hormone treatments need to be particularly careful when it comes to oral health. Women who are 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. During pregnancy, some experts suggest visiting the dentist every three months if possible, to help reduce the possibility of developing gum disease. Rinsing the mouth with baking soda can help remove some acids that contribute to gum issues, and women should ask their dentists for specific tips to help prevent issues during pregnancy or menopause.
Worried? Talk to an Expert
If you think you might be seeing early signs of periodontal disease, it’s important to schedule an appointment with your dentist. If caught early, it’s much easier to treat than if the disease is allowed to become more advanced. Regular cleanings and 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 doesn’t produce many symptoms in the beginning.
Need an expert in gum health? Drs. Gallardo in Miami are renowned for their knowledge and expertise in treating periodontal disease. To learn more or to schedule an appointment, call 305-547-8687 today.