Hormones and Dental Health

Women experience many changes throughout their lives from puberty to menopause, and you may be surprised to hear that these changes affect their dental health. Hormonal fluctuations affect blood flow to the gums as well as the body’s response to plaque buildup. These changes put women at risk for oral health problems such as periodontal disease. If you’re a young woman experiencing puberty, or a mature woman experiencing menopause, avoid developing oral health problems by visiting your northwest Indiana dentist, Dr. Nicholas Cain.

Stages of Hormonal Fluctuation

Women are more susceptible to oral health problems during five stages of their lives: puberty, menses (their monthly menstrual cycle), while they are taking birth control, during pregnancy, and during menopause

Puberty: When a woman begins puberty, the hormones estrogen and progesterone increase. As a result of this hormonal increase, there is also an increase in the blood flow to the gums.  The additional blood flow causes swollen, tender, red gums that may bleed while brushing and flossing. The hormonal increase also changes how the gingival tissue (gum tissue) reacts to the bacterial toxins in plaque.

Menses: Progesterone increasesduring a woman’s menstrual cycle causing symptoms of gingivitis (called menstruation gingivitis), including tender, red, swollen gums, swollen salivary glands, and canker sores in some women. It begins a few days before and usually tapers off within a few days.

Birth Control: Birth control can cause inflamed gums in somewomen due to the increased progesterone levels, causing the gingival tissue to overreact to the bacterial plaque. This often happens when first beginning birth control and then levels off. Newer birth control products containing lower concentrations of hormones decrease the likelihood of this response.

Pregnancy: During the second to eighth month of pregnancy, the fluctuation of hormones puts women at risk for plaque buildup. Gingivitis (inflamed and irritated gums due to bacterial plaque buildup) can cause swollen and bleeding gums.

Menopause: Estrogen production is decreased during menopause. A decrease in estrogen levels puts women at risk for gingivitis and osteoporosis. Gingivitis can lead to periodontal disease. Osteoporosis (bone loss) can lead to gradual disintegration of the jawbone structure. Both periodontal disease and osteoporosis can lead to tooth loss. That’s why women should pay particular attention to their oral health during these five stages of their lives.


As a native of northwest Indiana, Nicholas Cain, DDS, is dedicated to providing excellent general, preventive, cosmetic, and family dentistry services to the community that raised him. To schedule your next dental appointment, call Healthy Smiles today at 219-938-2637.