Birth Control Side Effects and Oral Health


Before you begin any medication, understanding the side effects is essential. If you're considering starting birth control, you might be surprised that birth control side effects may impact your oral health.

Birth Control and Effects on Oral Health

Oral contraceptives are made up of hormones that prevent fertility. Pills are either a combination of estrogen and progesterone or made up of only progesterone, reports the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. In the past, the level of hormones in pills could be harmful to your gums and oral health. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), these hormones cause higher levels of blood flow to your gums, which result in sensitivity to the area and greater susceptibility to plaque and bacteria.

Nowadays, the hormone dosage found in oral contraceptive prescriptions are lower and no longer cause sensitivity to your gums, per the ADA. But there are still other side effects to take into account.

Other Drawbacks to Consider

For women who take hormone-based birth control, there is an increased risk of one particular complication after a wisdom tooth extraction. Women who use birth control were two times more likely than women who did not take oral contraceptives to develop a dry socket after their wisdom teeth were removed, states The Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA)Dry socket occurs when the blood clot that naturally forms in the socket dislodges or is removed. However, there have been mixed results in research on the link between birth control side effects and dry socket, says JADA. Additional variables include whether a patient smokes, the extraction site, the complexity of the procedure and age.

Nevertheless, there is evidence of other serious conditions related to birth control: TMD (temporomandibular joint disorder) is a pain and stiffness in this joint and the surrounding areas, reports the Cleveland Clinic. Synthetic hormones found in certain birth control methods can lead to a deficiency in natural estrogen, which can cause more inflammation and is linked to TMD.

Likewise, other problems, such as canker sores, have been known to be triggered by "hormonal shifts during menstruation" notes the Mayo Clinic. Though research (and side effect information) is scarce as to the direct link between birth control and these painful mouth sores, a change in hormone levels after starting birth control may be a cause. As well, hormones may cause swollen salivary glands, per The Cleveland Clinic. This inflammation may inhibit the flow of saliva and result in xerostomia or dry mouth.

Certain Types Linked to Risk

Researchers have discovered that injectable progesterone contraceptives may contribute to periodontal disease and gingivitis, according to the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP). Women who have used or currently use the injectable birth control depot medroxyprogesterone acetate are "more likely to have indicators of poor periodontal health," (from gingivitis to periodontal disease) says the AAP. The New York Times notes that the synthetic progesterone desogestrel, not dienogest, increases the likelihood of periodontal disease.

Oral Care and Birth Control

Always consult your dentist and physician about birth control side effects. Since birth control can have an effect on your oral health, let your dentist know what kind of contraceptive you take and the duration you've used it. And keep up your normal care routine, along with daily brushing and flossing.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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Common Conditions During ADULTHOOD

As we get older, dental care for adults is crucial. Here are a few of the conditions to be aware of:

Gum disease – if your home care routine of brushing and flossing has slipped and you have skipped your regular dental cleanings, bacterial plaque and tartar can build up on your teeth. The plaque and tartar, if left untreated, may eventually cause irreparable damage to your jawbone and support structures, and could lead to tooth loss.

Oral cancer – according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, men over the age of 40 have the greatest risk for oral cancer. About approximately 43,000 people will be diagnosed with cancer of the mouth, tongue or throat area, and the ACS estimates that about 7,000 people will die from these cancers. The use of tobacco products and alcohol increases the risk of oral cancer. Most oral cancers are first diagnosed by the dentist during a routine checkup.

Dental fillings break down – fillings have a life expectancy of eight to 10 years. However, they can last 20 years or longer. When the fillings in your mouth start to break down, food and bacteria can get underneath them and can cause decay deep in the tooth.