Why Women Have Unique Oral Health Concerns

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Women have unique areas of their health that they need to pay close attention to, and oral health is one of them. This is due to factors like hormonal changes, physiological differences, and life events that are specific to women.

Research has clearly shown that women are at higher risk of gum disease. This is due to hormonal changes during puberty, pregnancy and menopause and even when taking oral contraceptives. For Women’s Month, Dirna Grobbelaar, oral hygiene advisor for Ivohealth, and a member of the Oral Hygienists Association of South Africa (OHASA), and periodontist Dr. Corlene Schnetler, share female-focused oral care advice.

“Hormones affect oral health. The hormonal fluctuations throughout a woman’s life, during puberty, pregnancy and menopause can make gums more sensitive and susceptible to inflammation and bleeding. At the same time, untreated gum disease has been linked to many health problems, including premature birth and low birth weights. Taking care of your mouth is essential for good health.”

Pregnancy is one of the most significant times, advises Grobbelaar, who says that pregnant women are at higher risk of gum disease. “Pregnancy gingivitis is quite common. If you notice a little bleeding when you brush or floss don’t ignore it. Bleeding gums are one of the first and the most noticeable signs of gum disease.”

If your gums continue to bleed when you’re following a meticulous oral hygiene routine, book an appointment with your dentist or oral hygienist.

Pregnancy can also bring morning sickness, and Grobbelaar warns that if you are sick, not to brush immediately afterwards. “The acid in vomit softens tooth enamel. Simply rinse with water or an alcohol-free mouthwash like GUM Paroex or Dentyl Active and wait an hour before brushing your teeth. If toothpaste makes you feel nauseous when you brush, try dipping your brush in an antibacterial mouth rinse instead of using toothpaste.”

“Hormonal changes during pregnancy can also trigger mouth ulcers or canker sores, which can be painful. For rapid relief use an over-the-counter medication like Aloclair, which contains Aloe vera and forms a protective barrier over the exposed nerve endings, giving almost immediate relief.”

Grobbelaar recommends having a professional clean, ideally before becoming pregnant or during your pregnancy, the second trimester is usually a good time. “Look for a practice that offers EMS Guided Biofilm Therapy®, an innovative, extra-gentle oral hygiene treatment that is perfect during pregnancy.”

Other causes of hormonal fluctuations are the menstrual cycle and taking oral contraceptives. Some women experience swollen and sensitive gums, and mouth ulcers at these times.

During menopause and post-pregnancy some women experience dry mouth, which further increases the risk of dental decay and gum disease.

Menopause can also bring an increased risk of osteoporosis which can affect the jawbone, leading to tooth loss and other oral health problems.

Dr. Schnetler advises that meticulous oral hygiene is the most effective way to prevent oral health problems at all stages of life. “It’s your daily routine that matters most, and if you follow a proper daily oral hygiene routine at home you should be able to keep your gums and teeth healthy. “This includes brushing your teeth properly twice a day, flossing once a day, brushing your tongue daily and using mouthwash. It’s also important to use the correct tools and techniques.”

Here are 4 dental professional-approved daily routine must-dos to ensure your oral health:
  • Brush correctly twice a day for two minutes using a quality brush with soft, flexible bristles – either a power brush like the GUM Sonic Sensitive or a manual toothbrush like the GUM Pro Sensitive.
  • Clean between the teeth every day with floss, interdental picks, an interdental brush or an oral irrigator, whichever tool suits you best.
  • Gently clean the tongue every day using a special tool like the GUM Hali-Control dual-action tongue cleaner.
  • Rinse with an alcohol-free mouthwash like GUM Paroex (after using GUM Paroex toothpaste), Dentyl Dual Action or Thryve mouth salts.

“It’s crucial for women to maintain good oral hygiene practices, visit the dentist regularly, and inform their dental professional about any significant hormonal changes or life events. By being proactive about oral health, women can minimize the impact of these unique concerns and maintain a healthy smile throughout our lives.”

For further advice on oral health during pregnancy chat to your dental professional.