3 Common Dental Risks for WomenEthical Dental
Although Australian women have a higher life expectancy than men (84.9 years for females compared to 80.7 years for males (1)), men and women are affected by illness and disease in different ways. Women have risk factors associated with risks of certain chronic illnesses, hormone types and stressors and changes that typically occur during a woman’s life cycle.
We’ve listed one illness and two risks associated with dental health and being female below:
Orofacial pain is a general term to describe pain associated with joints, muscles and nerves anywhere in the head, neck, face, mouth, gums or teeth. One of the most common causes of orofacial pain is persisting nerve pain in the head. Causes for such pain can be surgery, clenching or grinding teeth, poor posture or an underlying medical condition.
A significant equal gender distribution study of 180,308 individuals was carried out in Sweden. Findings revealed that significantly more women than men report orofacial pain, with almost 3 times as many women as men reporting pain, plus the women were much more likely to report pain in consecutive check ups (2). Although we don’t exactly know why this is, some theories suggest that since stress related illnesses are higher in women it may lead to tooth clenching or grinding, or other medical conditions which may cause chronic pain. Additionally, the fluctuations of hormones of women in their reproductive years leave them at a risk of high stress and painful illness (3) which may lead to orofacial pain as a symptom or side effect.
Being pregnant can be an exciting journey and you are likely already being bombarded with tips and advice to keep you and your bub healthy during this time. However, being aware of how hormones affect your oral health is super important and can help you feel healthy and comfortable during this special time, and help you understand what is happening in your body.
Around the two-month mark you may notice changes in the health if your gums. ‘Pregnancy gingivitis’ may occur with signs being that your gums bleed easily when flossing or brushing. It is more likely to occur if you’ve had previous gum inflammation and if you haven’t kept up a healthy dental routine before pregnancy.
Additionally, you may develop ‘pregnancy tumours’, which are red lumpy areas that appear along the gum line and between the teeth. Although they sound scary, don’t worry, they’re usually completely harmless and go away postpartum, however, if you notice these sort of changes, it is a good idea to check with your dentist.
You may also be affected by dry mouth during your pregnancy. Keeping a healthy balance of saliva in your mouth is very important as it plays a big role in keeping the bacteria that prevent tooth decay away. If you are experiencing this contact your dentist to help with management. (4)
For most women menopause occurs between the ages of 47 and 55, and is accompanied by a decline in hormone levels which can result in a range of oral health effects.
You may find yourself more sensitive than usual to a range of foods including hot and cold drinks, and that some foods may taste odd, for example, extra salty, sour or metallic. This could be a symptom of other conditions such as burning mouth syndrome and is often accompanied by a burning or tender feeling in parts of your mouth.
Also, some women experience inflamed gums which show symptoms of red gums that bleed easily, or dry mouth. Your dentist should be able to suggest a course of action if you experience sensitivity, inflammation or pain in your mouth.
Additionally, osteoporosis can affect teeth and gums during your post menopausal years. Osteoporosis can cause the bone in your jaw to recede leading to gum reduction and tooth loss (5). Therefore, preventing osteoporosis by getting adequate nutrition, exercise and reducing lifestyle risk factors during your reproductive years is super important. It is also critical that if your doctor recommends a medication that affects the rate of bone turnover (often used to treat osteoporosis), you ask them whether a dental examination is also required as some of these medications have important dental considerations.