The increased levels of female hormones during puberty, pregnancy and menopause can cause dental problems, warns Lt Gen Dr Vimal Arora.
Do women have special needs to look after their oral health?
It's hard to believe that needs for both sexes can be different when the method for brushing is same.
Researchers have found possible correlation between the two and the most viable attributable reason is the massive biological changes happening in women as compared to men.
There are five reasons why women need special dental care; attaining puberty, during menses, while using birth control pills/patches or injections, during pregnancy and menopause.
1. Change in women's hormones affect gums
Let's take the most common prevalent disease amongst adults in India, i.e. the gum disease which is a bacterial infection causing inflammation or swelling of the gums surrounding the teeth wherein the toxins may enter the blood stream and cause other health complications like low birth weight or pre-term babies, stroke, heart disease, diabetes, respiratory problems and other associated problems.
Changes in women hormones' levels cause the gums to behave differently and the response is much more aggravated to plaque which sticks around the teeth.
2. Gum problems during puberty, pregnancy
During the pubertal spurt, many girls would find their gums feeling congested or swell and show signs of spontaneous bleed even while normal brushing or flossing prior to periods while others may have minute oral ulcers or sensitive mouth.
The increased levels of female hormones; estrogen and progesterone during puberty causes increased blood flow to gums resulting in such exaggerated response of the gums.
Menstrual gingivitis clears up on its own, however, the more severe reaction may leave some lasting damage if there is already presence of plaque in the mouth.
3. Women on pills
Women who are on birth control pills/patches definitely are prone to gum disease.
They must share this information with dental surgeons so that they can differentiate between an exaggerated response or the actual disease. Incidence of 'dry socket', a painful condition, after tooth extraction is much higher in women on pills.
4. Pregnancy induced problems
The situation is similar during pregnancy where starting 2nd or 3rd month, there is increased incidence of 'pregnancy gingivitis' or 'pregnancy epulis', which show greater severity if already gum disease is present.
Further, during pregnancy the frequent vomiting can damage the teeth as the acid causes breakdown of the enamel. It is best to rinse the mouth thoroughly immediately after the vomit.
Menopause means end of menses because of reduced hormonal production.
There are numerous oral changes which occur as a consequence and can include altered taste, burning sensations in the mouth, greater sensitivity to hot and cold foods and beverages, and decreased salivary flow leading to dry mouth.
Dry mouth, in turn, can result in the development of tooth decay and gum disease, because saliva is not available to moisten and cleanse the mouth by neutralising acids produced by plaque.
Simple tips to prevent these problems
When to visit the dentist
Lead image used for representational purposes only. Image: Kind courtesy Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade/Wikimedia Commons
The author is chief clinical officer, Clove Dental. He was former director general of the Army Dental Corps.