August 27, 2008
Contact PDA: (717) 234-5941
What You Need to Know About Women's Oral Health
Believe it or not, women and men have different oral health needs. In fact, women's oral health needs change at different stages throughout their life, including puberty, pregnancy and menopause.
The Pennsylvania Dental Association (PDA) offers a reminder that understanding these evolving oral health needs will ensure that everyone, regardless of gender or stage of life, is getting the oral health care they need to maintain healthy teeth and gums.
Changes in women’s oral health care needs are primarily related to changing hormone levels. During puberty, the rise in hormone levels can lead to swollen and sensitive gums, as well as mouth sores. Long-term use of oral contraceptives can lead to gingivitis, as they contain progesterone or estrogen. In addition, women who take oral contraceptives are twice as susceptible to develop dry socket. Regardless of life stage or gender, a person should always keep his/her dentist informed of any medications he/she is taking, including oral contraceptives, especially before any major dental procedure.
It is especially important to maintain good oral health during pregnancy. Due to the increase in hormone levels, particularly estrogen and progesterone, pregnant women are more at risk to develop inflamed gums, which if left untreated can lead to gum disease. Pregnant women who are diagnosed with periodontal (gum) disease are more likely to have pre-term, low birth-weight babies. To help prevent periodontal disease, brush thoroughly twice a day and floss daily.
As a baby's teeth typically develop in utero between the third and sixth month of pregnancy, it is essential that pregnant women receive sufficient amounts of key nutrients, such as calcium, protein, phosphorous and vitamins A, C and D. Remember, what a woman eats during pregnancy affects the development of her unborn child. To minimize the risk of tooth decay, choose nutritious well-balanced meals and snacks.
"Rubbing a paste of baking soda and water on the teeth and leaving it on for 30 seconds can neutralize the effects of acids accompanying morning sickness and help prevent tooth erosion," said Dr. Linda Himmelberger, a PDA member and general dentist from Devon. "Although this is most effective, if this is not possible, then rinse with water immediately afterwards."
Routine X-rays will likely be postponed during pregnancy. However, there may be times when one is needed for dental treatment or a dental emergency that can't wait. Untreated dental infections can pose risk to both mother and her unborn child. Radiation from X-rays is very low and precautions are taken to minimize radiation exposure. However, it is important that a woman let her dentist know if she is pregnant or may be pregnant prior to any X-ray or dental procedure.
During menopause, it is not uncommon for women to develop dry mouth and sore and sensitive gums.
"Dentists can recommend a number of products to help sooth your gums and stimulate salivary flow," Dr. Himmelberger said.
PDA encourages women to talk to their dentist at each life stage and understand changing oral health care needs. Your dentist can answer any questions and suggest helpful tips to ensure excellent dental health.Read more information about women's oral health.
Pennsylvania Dental Association
Founded in 1868, the Pennsylvania Dental Association (PDA) is comprised of approximately 6,000 member dentists. It is a constituency of the American Dental Association (ADA), the largest and oldest national dental society in the world. PDA’s mission is to improve the public health, promote the art and science of dentistry and represent the interests of its member dentists and their patients. PDA is the voice of dentistry in Pennsylvania. Learn more about PDA.