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 "www.ada.org".

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

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.