When you were pregnant or breastfeeding, you may have noticed that your gums and your teeth felt different, or that whenever you are on your period, your mouth seems similarly “off.”
You should be comforted to know that this is normal, and that your fluctuating hormone levels are responsible. Women tend to have more dental problems whenever our bodies are going through hormonal changes, from the onset of puberty to menopause and everything in between.
So why do hormones affect our teeth?
Our female hormones, estrogen and progesterone, are critical to our oral health. Whenever our body makes more female hormones, more blood flows to our gums, making them tender and susceptible to plaque and bacteria accumulating around the gums. Our gums can get inflamed and swollen, sometimes to the point of bleeding. A prolonged inflammation may even lead to gingivitis and periodontal disease.
If you’ve ever noticed swollen or bleeding gums, canker sores, or swollen salivary glands, hormones may be to blame.
We all no doubt remember that a part of being a teenager is having our body flooded with female hormones! The surge in estrogen and progesterone causes our bodies to mature, but it also increases blood flow to the gums, leaving a teenage girl’s gums red, tender, swollen, and often bleeding. Some teenage girls going through puberty may also find themselves developing canker sores. None of it is pleasant, but the good news is that it is quite normal.
I’ve talked in my previous blog post about how pregnancy is a time when your oral health needs attention and your teeth and gums are particularly vulnerable to problems. Why? Because during pregnancy, we experience a boost in female sex hormones. And it’s really quite a boost: we produce more estrogen during a single pregnancy than throughout our entire lives when not pregnant!
This surge in hormones is designed to help ligaments relax and to improve the formation of blood vessels, all of which allows a baby to grow in your womb and thrive. It’s good for your baby, of course, but not for your gums, which are then at an increased risk of periodontal disease. The problem is compounded by the fact that during pregnancy we also have a reduced flow of saliva, whose natural antimicrobial and antiviral properties would normally help. To make matters even worse, we also tend to crave high-energy, sweet foods that hardly help our teeth.
All this makes keeping a healthy mouth while pregnant a real challenge.
Some women find they develop pregnancy gingivitis, especially between the second and eighth months of pregnancy— a mild form of gum disease that causes gums to be red, tender, and sore.
Other women will find themselves getting cavities for the first time in their lives.
During menopause, the female body also goes through major hormonal changes. Some women experience the uncomfortable feeling of dry mouth as the amount of estrogen and progesterone produced decreases dramatically. Dry mouth happens when you don’t have enough saliva, and it can cause pain while eating, swallowing, and talking. Without enough saliva, you also have more risk of cavities.
Hormonal changes during menopause also lead to inflammation of the tissues around your teeth.
What can we do?
It’s actually not that hard to prevent hormone-induced teeth issues. Make sure you brush your teeth regularly, visit your local dentist – and chew sugar-free chewing gum. Yes, gum!
Research finds that those who chew gum reduce their risk of cavities by 28%. Sugar-free chewing gum fights inflamed gums and dry mouth by stimulating saliva production by 10 to 12 times the normal amount. This saliva neutralizes acid, soothes inflammation, and rids the mouth of bad bacteria and plaque.
Chewing sugar-free gum is a simple, affordable way to protect your oral health and more. Multiple studies show that good oral health means a healthy oral microbiome, and that in turn translates into our overall health. Chewing gum has also been found to be effective in helping relieve anxiety and improve concentration – all this while protecting your gums and teeth. Mint gum can even help with nausea, and, according to a recent study, chewing gum after a Caesarean improves recovery and shortens hospital stay.
So when you feel like your hormones are going haywire, and your mouth feels tender and swollen, remember there is an easy fix.
I’m a fan of simple, preventative measures we all can take to stay healthy, and sugar-free chewing gum is a no-brainer.
*This is a partnered post. All opinions are my own and not swayed by outside sources.*