When it comes to chronic periodontal (gum) disease, men are much more likely to be afflicted than women (56.4% vs. 38.4%). While some studies have suggested that this disparity is due to differences in oral hygiene, scholars continue to look at the influence of sex hormones on the ability to mount an immune defense against the disease. But even though men are more likely to develop other health risks due to periodontal disease, women should also be concerned about how gum health can impact their overall health. Find out what researchers have concluded about women and periodontal health, including how hormones can affect the disease’s progression.
What is Periodontal Disease?
When the sticky film known as plaque builds up and adheres to the teeth, the bacteria present in that film produce toxins that can irritate the gums in the early stages of the disease. As the disease progresses, your gums respond to the toxins by swelling, bleeding, and forming pockets that can eventually separate gum from teeth. In the most severe stage of the disease (periodontitis), bone and soft tissue risk being destroyed, leading to potential tooth loss.
Maintaining good oral habits such as regular brushing and flossing can help prevent or reverse the disease in its early stages. But it’s also helpful to know how hormones can affect the health of your gums and what women should watch for as they age.
Hormones’ Impact on Women and Periodontal Health
Changes in female hormones can affect gum health when a young girl begins menstruating through her post-menopausal years.
Menstruation and Gum Irritation
Estrogen and progesterone levels begin to increase as girls reach puberty and start menstruating. As these hormones surge and fluctuate, they can impact the way gum tissues respond to plaque. Gums will be more susceptible to redness, swelling, irritation, and even bleeding just before the first day of menstruation.
Birth Control and Pregnancy Hormones Can Make Gums Vulnerable to Disease
Hormonal birth control can increase estrogen and progesterone levels, which may cause gum irritation similar to what you might experience while menstruating. If you visit a dentist to address gum swelling and irritation while on birth control, it’s important to inform your dentist about the medications you’re taking. Antibiotics prescribed for your gums could potentially make the oral contraceptive less effective. 
During pregnancy, hormone levels rise sharply, and it’s primarily an increase in progesterone that causes gum sensitivity. From the second to eight-month of the pregnancy, there’s an increased risk of developing gingivitis, which may cause your gums to bleed in addition to being red, tender, and swollen.
During and After Menopause
Another hormonal shift happens during and after menopause, as estrogen declines to low levels. Some of the side effects you might experience during this time include a burning sensation in your mouth and a decreased amount of saliva. A dry mouth can lead to sore and sensitive gums, infections, ulcers, and cavities.
Health Risks Stemming From Periodontal Disease
Although women are less likely than men to develop other health concerns connected to periodontal disease, they should still be cautious. Periodontal disease has been linked to a higher incidence of health problems in women, including osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular diseases, and certain forms of cancer.
If You’re Experiencing Symptoms of Gum Disease, Visit a Periodontist Right Away
If your gums are red, swollen, sensitive, or bleeding, Dental Implants & Periodontal Health of Rochester can design a custom treatment plan to treat your stage of periodontal disease. Dr. Zahavi and Dr. Rappoport are respected leaders in periodontics and will provide you with care of the highest level.
It’s easier to treat or reverse periodontal disease in its early stages, so don’t wait too long to get started. Call us at (585) 685-2005.