The Surgeon General's Report on Oral Health states that good oral health is essential to good general health. And specifically for women, a growing body of research has linked gum disease to a variety of health problems that affect women. Because gum disease is a bacterial infection, it can enter the bloodstream and may be a factor in causing other health complications:
Heart disease: People with gum disease may be more at risk for heart disease and have nearly twice the risk of having a fatal heart attack. Heart disease is also the number one killer of American women.
Stroke: One study found a casual relationship of oral infections as a risk factor for stroke.
Diabetes: People with diabetes are more likely to have gum disease and may make it more difficult for diabetics to control their blood sugar. Gum disease may also be a risk factor for diabetes, even in otherwise healthy indviduals.
Respiratory problems: Bacteria that grow in the oral cavity can travel to the lungs causing respiratory disease such as pneumonia - especially in people with gum disease.
Pregnancy outcomes: Pregnant women who have gum disease may be more likely to have a baby born too early or too small. Gum disease may also trigger increased levels of biological fluids that induce labor.
Believe it or not, women and men have different oral health needs. In fact, women's oral health needs change at different stages throughout their life, including puberty, pregnancy and menopause.
The Pennsylvania Dental Association (PDA) offers a reminder that understanding these evolving oral health needs will ensure that everyone, regardless of gender or stage of life, is getting the oral health care they need to maintain healthy teeth and gums.
Changes in women's oral health care needs are primarily related to changing hormone levels. During puberty, the rise in hormone levels can lead to swollen and sensitive gums, as well as mouth sores. Long-term use of oral contraceptives can lead to gingivitis, as they contain progesterone or estrogen. In addition, women who take oral contraceptives are twice as susceptible to develop dry socket. Regardless of life stage or gender, a person should always keep his/her dentist informed of any medications he/she is taking, including oral contraceptives, especially before any major dental procedure.
It is especially important to maintain good oral health during pregnancy. Due to the increase in hormone levels, particularly estrogen and progesterone, pregnant women are more at risk to develop inflamed gums, which if left untreated can lead to gum disease. Pregnant women who are diagnosed with periodontal (gum) disease are more likely to have pre-term, low birth-weight babies. To help prevent periodontal disease, brush thoroughly twice a day and floss daily.