Compared to men, women have higher rates of decayed, filled or missing teeth due to tooth decay. During various life stages, women are placed at increased risk of tooth and gum diseases.
Hormonal changes during puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, breastfeeding and menopause can cause swelling and changes to the gums. The oral contraceptive pill and hormone replacement therapy (HRT), as well as other medications, also influence oral health. A good oral hygiene regime combined with regular dental checks will ensure that the teeth and gums are in the best condition to deal with these hormonal changes.
Regular vomiting occurring during periods of morning sickness can cause tooth decay. Morning sickness can also erode or wear the teeth, potentially making them sensitive and causing permanent damage.
Untreated gum disease during pregnancy has been associated with low birthweight and preterm birth. Furthermore, if a mother has untreated tooth decay, the germs that cause decay can be passed onto her baby, increasing their chance of decay when the teeth come through and into childhood.
There is a common misconception that having dental treatment during pregnancy can be unsafe, however routine dental treatment is not only safe but beneficial for both mother and baby. Women are recommended to see a dentist either before or soon after they become pregnant as part of the team of health professionals they consult during pregnancy.
Later in life, it is common for medical conditions and medications to affect oral health. Burning mouth syndrome affects many postmenopausal women and causes a chronic painful burning sensation in the mouth. Sjogren’s Syndrome is a disease of the immune system which mostly affects women. It results in a dry mouth as the tissues that produce saliva are destroyed. Dry mouth can also be caused by various medications, especially if multiple medications are being taken. Dry mouth can be very uncomfortable and increases one’s risk of tooth decay and other dental diseases. If you are experiencing a persistent burning or dry mouth, inform your dentist or medical doctor. Your dentist will work with you to implement strategies to help you feel more comfortable and protect your teeth.