It was never a question that my period came with symptoms like cramping and bloating, but I never knew that bleeding gums could make the list, too. Thanks to a recent chat with Maria Victoria Sebastian, DDS, the owner and lead dentist of Dentistry With a Smile, I learned that hormone fluctuations (especially tied to estrogen and progesterone levels) can directly impact one's oral health.
"Due to hormonal fluctuations in a woman's life, they are more susceptible to oral health problems if they are not taking preventative care in a timely manner [and] if they are not properly doing oral home health care regimens," she said.
Let's say you're experiencing bleeding gums. Hormonal imbalances from puberty, menstruation, perimenopause, menopause, or birth control usage can dictate how the gums react to bacterial toxins from plaque, Sebastian said.
Because of increased levels of the progesterone hormone during PMS, symptoms like swelling and bleeding gums, tender salivary glands, and canker sores can more commonly appear a few days prior to one's period, but they tend to resolve themselves at the end of a cycle.
As another example of how hormones can affect your oral health, Sebastian said those with naturally low estrogen levels (menopause can cause this!) could be at risk of bone loss in areas that support teeth, which can lead to gum recession.
Changing hormones can also cause increased bleeding of your gums when brushing, flossing, or merely touching gums; gum inflammation; frequent canker sores; general mouth soreness; altered taste; and root decay, Sebastian said.
No, having hormones doesn't guarantee you'll face these complications — but it's not a bad idea to be on top of your oral hygiene as a preventative measure. Sebastian said timely dental cleanings (at least twice a year or every three to four months if you have underlying health problems) that include exams, x-rays, and professional fluoride applications play an important role in preventing hormone-induced oral health issues.
Brushing thoroughly, flossing daily, and using mouthwash frequently to reduce bacteria in your mouth are imperative, too. Sebastian also recommends eating a balanced diet, avoiding excess sugar intake, and informing your dentist of habitual teeth grinding and clenching.
And if you begin to experience oral health problems like consistent bleeding gums, chronic bad breath, or sensitivity when brushing, flossing, and drinking hot or cold beverages, don't wait to reach out to your dentist for help.
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