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Women Face Special Problems with Gum Disease

Three of four adults are affected by periodontal disease — commonly known as gum disease — at some point in their lives. But did you know that women are particularly susceptible to this disease at certain stages of life?

Women who are already prone to gum disease may find the problem worsening during some stages of life due to hormonal changes that can affect the blood supply to the gums and exaggerate the body's response to irritation caused by plaque on the teeth. Specifically:

  • During menstruation, some women may experience swollen gums, lesions, canker sores, swollen salivary glands or bleeding gums. Your dentist may prescribe special cleanings, gum treatment or topical anesthetics to ease any discomfort.

  • A common problem for women who take oral contraceptives is inflamed gums. Tell your dentist if you are taking birth control pills because some medications the dentist might give you, such as antibiotics, can lessen the effect of an oral contraceptive.

  • Gingivitis may cause red, puffy or tender gums during pregnancy, especially during the second to eighth months, due to elevated hormone levels. Your dentist may recommend more frequent cleanings during your second trimester or early third trimester to help avoid these problems.

  • Physical changes that can occur in the mouth after reaching menopause include a burning sensation, altered taste sensations (salty, peppery or sour), dry mouth from decreased saliva flow and greater sensitivity to hot and cold foods and drinks. Saliva substitutes may be prescribed to combat dry mouth.

For more information about gum disease, visit the American Dental Association Web site at "".

© 2003 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

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