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Womens Dental Health

Some things the average male just cannot understand.

Fluctuating levels of female hormones-during puberty, menstruation, menopause pregnancy and breast-feeding - can affect women's oral health.

So too, can taking the oral contraceptive pill, fertility drugs and hormone replacement therapy [HRT].

Hormonal changes can make gums tender and more likely to bleed.

This in turn makes them more likely to harbour bacteria and can contribute to plaque formation, which is a common cause of tooth decay [caries] and gum or periodontal disease. It is the major cause of tooth loss in the over- 30's age group.

Prevention is based on reducing plaque by….

1. Brushing twice to three times a day and flossing daily.

2. Lowering the sugar content of food and drinks consumed and brushing after sweet and sticky food.

3. Avoiding snacking during the day, as regular meals are healthier for the teeth.

4. Drinking mainly water and milk and avoiding soft drinks and not taking sugar with tea and coffee.

5. Having regular dental check-ups with your dentist.

6. Ensuring calculus [hardened plaque] is regularly removed.

Six monthly visits are important. (every 6 months)

If you are a heavy smoker, or have rapid calculus build-ups, then three monthly cleaning and scaling may be more appropriate.

PREGNANCY

During pregnancy many women find gums bleed more readily because gums are more sensitive to plaque.

The effect is first apparent around week 12 of the pregnancy and may continue through to the second and third trimesters.

You may need more frequent scaling and cleaning during pregnancy if experiencing pregnancy gingivitis.

Pregnancy epulis is a swelling on the gums peculiar to pregnancy. It is benign [non-cancerous] and forms in reaction to plaque build up.

It often requires no treatment other than to step up oral hygiene and will disappear spontaneously in most cases once the hormone levels return to normal. If not, it can be removed after pregnancy.

Stomach acid caused by nausea and vomiting can cause tooth damage by eroding enamel. Rinsing out with water or neutral fluoride rinses is recommended.

During morning sickness, avoid frothy strong toothpaste and use a child-size toothbrush if necessary.

PUBERTY AND MENSTRUATION

Hormonal surges during menstruation and puberty may lead to swollen gums at different times of the month.

This may lead to mouth ulcers and cold sore lesions developing, as gums are more sensitive.

Limiting the acid content of diet, drinking more milk, eating yoghurt with acidophilus [or taking the powdered form] is one way to try to control these lesions .

MENOPAUSE

The onset of menopause may see an increase in the incidence of dry and burning mouth and bad taste can develop. Gums may become sore and sensitive.

These symptoms can be relieved by good oral hygiene, including brushing and flossing and regular professional cleaning by your dentist.

Osteoporosis alone will not cause tooth loss unless periodontitis or gum disease is also present. A high calcium diet coupled with HRT may be an effective way to minimise tooth loss.

Women on HRT may notice similar effects on their gums as women on the pill: an increase in bleeding swelling and redness of the gums. Extra care with oral hygiene is indicated.

EATING DISORDERS

These are more prevalent in women. People with bulimia make themselves vomit up stomach acid that erodes enamel surfaces, weakening and discolouring tooth structure. Usually most of the damage is done to the back of the front teeth.

Thinning of enamel by the acid makes tooth colour appear grey or brownish as opposed to white and creamy. While frequent brushing and rinsing the mouth with water helps, it does not neutralise the acid exposure if frequent.

A neutral fluoride mouth rinse or antacid may be recommended by your dentist. Women with such disorders need to seek professional help.

Diet pills reduce salivary flow that can lead to tooth decay and gum diseases. Without saliva lubricating and neutralising the mouth, the teeth and the gums are exposed for a longer time to food particles that stick to them.

To minimise this risk, increase flossing and brushing and drink extra water along with using a daily fluoride mouth rinse.


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