It's crucial for all people to take proper care of their teeth, but certain populations should follow different dental care steps than others. For example, children, teenagers and the elderly are more susceptible to cavities than those between the ages of 20 and 70, which is why children and older adults may need to visit the dentist more than just twice a year. Furthermore, a person's gender can affect the health of his or her teeth - and this is particularly true for women.
According to the American Dental Association, women have dental health needs that men do not, and they need to keep that in consideration. Women experience hormone fluctuations multiple times throughout their lives - from puberty to pregnancy to menopause - and these changes can affect their dental health.
Hormones and dental health
Recently, the Island Gazette, a North Carolina news source, spoke to local dentist Eve Brown, D.D.S., who explained how changes in a woman's hormones impact her teeth.
"Studies show that increased female hormone levels correlate with higher levels of gingivitis, or inflammation of soft tissues in the mouth," Brown told the news source. "Some types of bacteria also proliferate when these hormone levels are elevated. These events call for a vigorous program of good oral hygiene."
When a woman's menstrual cycle begins, she may experience swelling of the soft tissues in the mouth. This can cause her to be more likely to experience gum problems such as ulcers in the mouth, which is why a woman may need to visit the dentist more often once menstruation begins.
Pregnancy can also drastically affect a woman's hormone levels, which is why she should visit the dentist soon after becoming pregnant. According to Brown, 60 to 75 percent of pregnant women experience inflammation of the gums. This causes an increased risk of bleeding and for larger pockets to form between teeth. Furthermore, some women may experience "pregnancy tumors" that form inside the mouth if she doesn't care for her teeth properly. While these will likely disappear after childbirth, women should still talk to their dentists if they appear.
"Gum disease during pregnancy may be a risk factor for low birth-weight babies, so we urge pregnant mothers to have regular examinations to prevent or control the problem," Brown told the Island Gazette.
Furthermore, it's not just pregnancy hormones that can affect a woman's mouth, but symptoms of pregnancy as well. For example, some women may experience cravings for foods that are high in sugar or very acidic - like the infamous combination of pickles and ice cream - and these foods can wreak havoc on tooth enamel. Also, nausea during the early months of pregnancy can lead to vomiting, which can wear away at the teeth. For all of these reasons, it's important for women to brush, floss and use mouthwash regularly.
Women and oral cancer
Another thing that women need to be on the lookout for when it comes to the health of their mouth is oral cancer. SheKnows spoke to Raj Tandon, M.D., who explained that in the past, men with a history of alcohol or tobacco use were considered to have the highest risk of this type of cancer. However, now more women are developing this disease. This could have something to do with the fact that the human papilloma virus - a common sexually transmitted virus often found in women - could cause oral cancer. This is another important reason for women to visit the dentist, since he or she can screen them for this disease.
The bottom line is that women should brush their teeth twice a day, floss at least once daily and visit their dentist as often as he or she recommends.
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