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It’s National Women’s Health Week

Women are often the primary caretakers of their family’s health but sometimes need a reminder to focus on themselves as well.

May 12-18 is National Women’s Health Week, so designated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health. The Office of Women’s Health coordinates National Women’s Health Week to empower women to make their health a top priority.

By focusing on the following five steps, women can significantly improve their physical and mental health and lower their risks of certain diseases:

  • Visit a health care professional to receive regular checkups and preventive screenings.
  • Get active.
  • Eat healthy.
  • Pay attention to mental health, including getting enough sleep and managing stress.
  • Avoid unhealthy behaviors, such as smoking, not wearing a seatbelt or bicycle helmet, and texting while driving.

Visiting a health professional regularly includes twice-yearly trips to the dentist, as recommended by the American Dental Association. A dentist can not only provide regular cleanings and monitor fluoride intake, but will also recommend treatments to prevent the onset of more serious oral health conditions.

Moreover, there are many oral health issues that are specific to women and require a dentist’s attention. For example, hormonal fluctuations have a surprisingly strong influence on the mouth, meaning that many women have special needs at different stages of life.

During puberty, menstruation, pregnancy and menopause, your body experiences hormonal changes. By understanding these changes, you can practice good oral health habits that will keep your teeth and gums healthy.

Taking care of your oral health during pregnancy is particularly important, as it can contribute to your baby’s oral health as well. Pregnancy is a factor that can increase a woman’s risk of developing gum disease, an infection of the tissues that surround and support your teeth and a major cause of tooth loss in adults.

Because gum disease is usually painless, you may not know you have it. Gum disease is caused by plaque, the sticky film of bacteria that is constantly forming on teeth.

In its earliest stages, gum disease is called gingivitis, where your gums may become red, swollen and bleed easily. At this stage, the disease is still reversible and can usually be eliminated by a professional cleaning at your dental office, followed by daily brushing and flossing.

Advanced gum disease is called periodontitis. Chronic periodontitis can lead to the loss of tissue and bone that support the teeth and it may become more severe over time. If it does, your teeth will feel loose and start moving around in your mouth. This is the most common form of periodontitis in adults but can occur at any age. It usually gets worse slowly, but there can be periods of rapid progression.

The sooner you treat gum disease, the better. Untreated periodontal disease is associated with premature birth and low birthweight and periodontal treatment appears to reduce these adverse outcomes. Women should continue to see a dentist during pregnancy for oral examinations and professional teeth cleanings, and inform the dentist about any changes in oral health status.

Good daily care at home is vital, too. That means always brushing your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, cleaning between your teeth once a day, eating a balanced diet and limiting between-meal snacks.

For more information on oral health conditions, visit the ADA’s patient education website, MouthHealthy.org.

©2010 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

05/15/2013

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