Women's Teeth: An Owner's Manual
Keeping your teeth healthy requires you to care for your teeth as consistently as you wash your face. Women’s teeth require some of the basics of dental care, including brushing at least twice a day with a toothpaste that has cavity-fighting fluoride. And whatever you do, don’t neglect flossing.
“Flossing is probably the best thing in the world people can do to protect their teeth,” says W. Frank Johnson, DDS, a dentist in private practice in Hixson, Tenn. “You don’t have to have the fanciest toothbrush of the fanciest whitening toothpaste. Those things are nice, but it’s not essential. However, consistent care is.”
Caring for your teeth goes beyond your bathroom, however. Lifestyle factors including your diet matter in protecting your teeth. If you have a sweet tooth or love sugary snacks, you are eating foods that can attract plaque to your teeth. By replacing these with healthier options, such as fruits and vegetables, you can whittle your waistline and keep your teeth healthy.
Finding the Right Dentist for You
Women’s teeth also need at least twice-yearly TLC from your dentist. You want to find a dentist that you feel comfortable with and that you can report medications you are taking. For example, if you are taking birth control pills, the monthly increase in progesterone also boosts the likelihood your gums will become red and/or irritated. By telling your dentist you are taking birth control pills or other medications, he is better able to make treatment recommendations.
Dental cleanings and oral examinations can help to pinpoint potential dental issues before they start. In the instance of your teeth, prevention is the best medicine. The pressures of a busy work and family life may keep women from seeking care for their teeth.
“As human beings, we’re busy and we prioritize things in our lives — if something isn’t hurting or bothering you, you may think it’s okay to skip a dentist visit,” says Charles V. Ankar, DDS, a family dentist with a practice at Shallowford Family Dental Group in Chattanooga, Tenn. “But waiting until something hurts can be a costly mistake that threatens your dental health.”
Hormones and Your Dental Health
It’s sad, but true: Women’s fluctuating hormones can put them more at risk for experiencing dental health issues, such as periodontal disease. This is because fluctuating hormones can lead to increased risk for gum irritation. A woman’s life cycle includes five main hormone fluctuation periods: puberty, menstruation, birth control pill use, pregnancy and menopause. During the times when your hormones are fluctuating, you are more likely to experience gum irritation and bleeding.
As your hormone levels diminish during menopause, you may begin to deal with a whole new set of hormonal issues. A decline in estrogen means you have less saliva flow, resulting in dry mouth.
“The bacteria that cause decay usually flourish in a dry mouth environment, which leads to increased incidence of tooth decay,” says Dr. Ankar.
Declining estrogen levels also can lead to bone density losses. While your teeth aren’t your arm or hip, they are made of calcium and phosphorus, just like your bones are. The results can be increased risk for receding gums and tooth decay. Although you may not be able to fight against the normal hormone fluctuations in your body, you can keep up a good oral health routine, which can have protective effects for your teeth. Don’t be afraid to talk to your dentist if you do experience dry mouth symptoms. There are treatment options available, such as mouth rinses, artificial saliva or even something as simple as chewing more sugar-free gum that can help to reduce the risk for tooth decay and gum disease.