Your hormones change throughout the course of your life, from typical hormonal shifts that occur with the onset of puberty to those associated with taking hormonal birth control and onwards toward menopause, or even those caused by an abnormal (but still fairly common) hormone imbalance. Chances are that you already have at least a little firsthand experience in just how hormones can cause big changes in your body, but the role they play in dental health can take a bit more to understand.
The Role of Your Hormones in Your Body
Female bodies have a mix of the hormones estrogen, progesterone and testosterone — the latter of which, though typically described as the “male sex hormone,” is still present, just in smaller quantities. Of these, estrogen and progesterone have the biggest, most noticeable effects. And their effects are primarily for one purpose: to help control and regulate your reproductive system.
Unfortunately for those who are familiar with the havoc a hormonal shift can cause, the effects of estrogen and progesterone in the body don’t start and end with your uterus: they can cause issues and problems throughout the body. From suddenly changing moods that accompany premenstrual hormonal shifts to bone density decreases during menopause, it should come as no surprise that these hormones can also impact your dental health.
Puberty and Dental Health
When you enter puberty, it’s your body’s first encounter with large quantities of hormones. Your world can feel turned upside down — and it’s not just in your head. Hormonal surges at the onset of puberty can lead to a temporary swelling of your gums. You’ll notice swelling, irritation, mild discomfort or sensitivity. You may notice a bit of bleeding when you brush your teeth as your body undergoes this hormone change.
Your Period, Birth Control Pills and Oral Health
Both the onset of your menstrual period and the use of oral contraceptives can cause your mouth to feel tender, swollen and inflamed, much like you would find at the onset of puberty. Some women never notice any issues, while others find that the sensitivity means they need to schedule cleanings for another time in their cycle — usually two weeks after the first day of their period — to avoid extreme discomfort.
Pregnancy and Dental Health
Pregnancy can be rough on the body, and your teeth are no exception. From the gum and soft tissue changes common amongst all hormonal shifts to gestational gingivitis — a mild form of gum disease that usually goes away after you give birth — your mouth might be miserable as you prepare to bring forth new life. Adding insult to injury, the acid damage from morning sickness or dry mouth related to hormonal shifts can also cause problems with your teeth.
Menopause and Oral Health
Menopause is a huge change that can touch every part of your life. Your sense of taste can be either dulled or heightened, your tooth sensitivity can increase, and you may feel a mild burning sensation at seemingly random times. These oral health changes are all due to — you guessed it — hormones.
More seriously, two main issues can result from the hormonal shifts associated with menopause: dry mouth and bone loss. Both conditions can lead to lost teeth, an increase in decay and cavities, and any number of other issues ranging from mildly inconvenient halitosis to potentially deadly cardiac complications due to oral bacteria entering your bloodstream by way of a broken or damaged tooth.
What to Do About Hormonal Changes
Hormonal shifts are normal and natural throughout your life, but they aren’t always pleasant. Good home care, including diligent brushing and flossing, goes a long way in mitigating the dental effects of hormones. Keeping your regular appointments is crucial, too. If you find yourself experiencing issues with your teeth and gums that may be related to a hormonal change, speak to your dentist. From scheduling your appointments for a time in your cycle where your gums are less likely to be irritated or sensitive to ensuring both your health and the health of your unborn child during your pregnancy, it’s important to keep your dentist’s office in the loop about what’s going on with your overall health, including your reproductive health.
Worried your hormones might be affecting your oral health? Give us a call today at (281) 497-5558 or click here to set up a consultation. Dr. Lisa Klimowski can tell you what’s going wrong, what you’re doing right and how to take care of your mouth even when your hormones are shifting.