Keep Smiling: Hormones, Gingivitis and Oral Health

WV Marshall

Unless your name is Oscar “Bleeding Gums” Murphy, the jazz saxophonist idolized by Lisa Simpson on “The Simpsons,” bleeding gums are not a good thing.

**Menopause and the fluctuation of hormones affect more than your weight and sex drive. They also affect your oral health. **

Gingivitis is the early stage of gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, the American Dental Association explains. In its early stages, symptoms may include bleeding gums, bad breath, and red, swollen, tender gums.

**So why do hormonal fluctuations make women more vulnerable to gum disease? **

“Women are more sensitive to the presence of plaque and bacteria around the gums when the hormone levels are high,” ADA dentist Dr. Sally Cram said in an article posted on the association’s blog. “This can cause your gums to become inflamed, swell and bleed. If left untreated, ongoing inflammation in the gums can also lead to bone loss around the teeth and eventual tooth loss.”

The Cleveland Clinic says oral changes could occur as a result of the natural aging process, medicines and hormonal changes due to menopause. These changes include altered taste, a burning sensation in the mouth, and a greater sensitivity to hot and cold foods and beverages.

Another ADA dentist, Dr. Alice Boghosian, also warned of two potentially problematic changes: dry mouth and bone loss. “Saliva cleanses the teeth and rinses cavity-causing bacteria off your teeth,” Boghosian said in the ADA blog. “When you have dry mouth, your saliva flow decreases and you’re more at risk for cavities.”

You’re also at risk of losing bone in your jaw, she said.

“The decreased estrogen that occurs with menopause also puts you at risk for a loss of bone density,” Boghosian explained. “Signs of bone loss in your jaw can be something as simple as receding gums. When your gums recede, more of your tooth is exposed and that puts more of your tooth at risk for decay. And if your mouth is dry, that’s a double whammy.”

But there’s good news!

Gum disease is preventable and reversible in its early stages, the ADA says, urging women to pay extra attention to any changes and taking good care their mouths.

The Cleveland Clinic recommends brushing your teeth at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and floss at least once a day, visit your dentist twice a year for an exam and cleaning, and eating a balanced diet.