It's not quite accurate to say that gingivitis and gum problems don't care if you're a man or a woman. Thanks to their hormones, women are likely to notice a red gum color and other symptoms of gum disease at certain times in their lives. The International Journal of Dentistry points out that the hormonal changes that occur during puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, menopause and contraceptive use can all have an effect on the health and condition of a woman's gums.
Just when you thought puberty couldn't get any worse, along comes information that this life stage can cause red gums and make the gums more sensitive. As the American Academy of Periodontology puts it, the increase in progesterone and possibly estrogen that happen during puberty increases the flow of blood to the gums. As a result, the gums can be tender and more sensitive to irritation, particularly if plaque is allowed to build up on them and on the teeth. During puberty, it's a good idea for teenage women to see their dentist regularly and to commit to brushing twice a day and flossing daily to keep as much plaque off of the teeth and gums as possible.
Some women know they are about to get their period because they want to eat chocolate all the time. Others feel puffy and bloated. Still, others notice changes in their gums, such as bleeding and increased tenderness. Menstruation gingivitis is caused by the increased levels of estrogen in the blood right before a woman starts her period. Some women notice that their gums are more tender, swollen and red a few days before their cycle starts.
Usually, menstruation gingivitis goes away when a woman's monthly period begins. You can help minimize symptoms by taking good care of your teeth at the time and during the rest of the month too.
The hormonal fluctuations associated with pregnancy can also increase your risk for bleeding gums and other signs of early gum disease. Pregnancy increases blood flow, which is also associated with red, tender gums.
How to cope with changes in your gums during pregnancy depends on how severe those changes are. Some women need to simply double down on their oral care at home or see their dentist for an oral evaluation and deep cleaning. If the gum disease has progressed, a dentist might prescribe an antibiotic that is safe for pregnant women to clear up any infection in the gums.
As if changes in the gums due to puberty, pregnancy and menstruation weren't enough, women going through or just past menopause also may notice some trouble with their gums. One problem with the gums that's unique to menopausal women is menopausal gingivostomatitis, or atrophy of the oral mucosa, which can lead to red gums, dryness in the gums, and bleeding. Hormonal therapy may help ease the symptoms and discomfort.
If you're on the pill or another type of hormonal birth control, you want to be aware of two things. The progesterone in many hormonal contraceptives can cause an increase in inflammation in the gums, due to increased blood flow. As the study in the International Journal of Dentistry notes, the longer you use contraceptives, the more likely you are to notice changes in your gums.
The other point to be aware of is that some antibiotics that would clear up gum disease might negatively affect your birth control. Antibiotics often make birth control pills less effective, so make sure you tell your dentist what you are taking before you start a course of antibiotics.
As a woman, you may face challenges to your gum and dental health over the years, including a red gum color. Regular dental checkups and a good oral care routine at home can help you protect your mouth through all of life's stages.