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pink_toothbrush_c-400x228Periodontal Disease and Women’s Health

Four basic signs should alert you to periodontal diseases:

1. Bleeding

Bleeding gums during tooth brushing, flossing or any other time

2. Swollen gums

Swollen and bright red gums

3. Recession

Gums that have receded away from the teeth, sometimes exposing the roots

4. Bad breath

Constant bad breath that does not clear up with brushing and flossing

You may have never expected that your overall health can influence the health of your gums, but gum disease is often linked to changes in the rest of your body. Some of these effects may be minor and easily corrected, but some may be connected to more serious problems:

Puberty

During puberty, an increased level of sex hormones, such as progesterone and possibly oestrogen, causes increased blood circulation to the gums. This may cause an increase in the gum’s sensitivity and lead to a greater reaction to any irritation, including food particles and plaque. During this time, the gums may become swollen, turn red and feel tender.

Menstruation

Occasionally, some women experience menstruation gingivitis. Women with this condition may experience bleeding gums, bright red and swollen gums and sores on the inside of the cheek. Menstruation gingivitis typically occurs just before a woman’s period and clears up once her period has started.

Pregnancy

Some studies have suggested the possibility that pregnant women who have periodontal disease may be more likely to have a baby that is born too early and too small. However, more research is needed to confirm how periodontal disease may affect pregnancy outcomes.

Menopause and Post-Menopause

Women who are menopausal or post-menopausal may experience changes in their mouths. They may notice discomfort in the mouth, including dry mouth, pain and burning sensations in the gum tissue and altered taste, especially salty, peppery or sour.

In addition, a condition known as menopausal gingivostomatitis affects a small percentage of women. Symptoms of this condition are gums that look dry or shiny, bleed easily and range in colour from abnormally pale to deep red. Most women find that oestrogen supplements help to relieve these symptoms.

Chronic gingivitis

Is common in children. It usually causes gum tissue to swell, turn red and bleed easily. Gingivitis is both preventable and treatable with a regular routine of thorough cleaning and professional dental care. However, left untreated, it can eventually advance to more serious forms of periodontal disease.

Aggressive periodontitis

Can affect young people who are otherwise healthy. Localised aggressive periodontitis is found in teenagers and young adults and mainly affects the first molars and incisors. It is characterised by the severe loss of gum tissues and bone. Ironically, patients generally form very little dental plaque or calculus.

Generalised aggressive periodontitis

May begin around puberty and involve the entire mouth. It is marked by inflammation of the gums and heavy accumulations of plaque and calculus. Eventually it can cause the teeth to become loose.

The importance of good dental hygiene in adolescence

Hormonal changes related to puberty can put teens at greater risk of periodontal disease. During puberty, an increased level of hormones, such as progesterone and possibly oestrogen, cause increased blood circulation to the gums. This may cause an increase in the gum’s sensitivity and lead to a greater reaction to any irritation, including food particles and plaque. During this time, the gums may become swollen, turn red and feel tender.

As time goes on, the tendency for the gums to swell in response to irritants will lessen. However, during puberty, it is very important to keep up a high level of dental hygiene, including regular brushing and flossing, and regular dental care. In some cases, a dental professional may recommend periodontal therapy to help prevent damage to the tissues and bone surrounding the teeth.

Advice for parents

Early diagnosis is important for successful treatment of periodontal diseases. Therefore, it’s important that children receive a periodontal examination as part of their routine dental visits. Be aware that if your child has an advanced form of periodontal disease, this may be an early sign of systemic disease.

The most important preventive step against periodontal disease is to establish good oral health habits with your child. There are basic preventive steps to help your child maintain good oral health:

  • Establish good dental hygiene habits early. When your child is 12 months old, you can begin using toothpaste when brushing his or her teeth.   When the gaps between your child’s teeth close, it’s important to start flossing.
  • Serve as a good role model by practicing good dental hygiene habits yourself.
  • Schedule regular dental visits for family checkups, periodontal evaluations and cleanings.
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