If early gum disease is not recognized and appropriately treated early on, then you may be at risk for periodontal disease. This can damage the underlying structures of your gums and destroy the bones that support your teeth, including your jawbone. Anyone can develop gum disease; however, certain conditions affecting women may raise the risk. Here are some health conditions that can heighten gum and periodontal disease in women.
Menopause-Related Estrogen Deficits
Menopause causes hormone fluctuations that include sharp declines in estrogen. Not only does estrogen help protect against cardiovascular disease, but it can also help keep the bones strong and resistant to fractures.
When estrogen levels fall during menopause, the risk for gum disease rises. Estrogen helps keep gum tissue healthy and resistant to infection. It also helps keep the jawbones and teeth in good shape. When estrogen levels decline during menopause, osteoporosis can develop, which can weaken your jawbone, cause the teeth to loosen, and speed the progression of periodontal disease.
Visiting your dentist's office regularly for checkups and frequent teeth cleanings can help prevent gum disease. Estrogen replacement therapy can also help minimize your risk for periodontal disease; however, it is not recommended for everyone. Women who have had breast cancer or have a personal or family history of uterine, endometrial, or ovarian cancer may not be appropriate candidates for estrogen replacement therapy. This is because estrogen may trigger a new gynecological cancer in these high-risk women or raise the risk for recurrence in cancer survivors.
Salivary Gland Dysfunction
Another health condition more common in women is salivary gland dysfunction. It is often caused by autoimmune disorders such as Sjögren's syndrome. This disease causes dry eyes, and it prevents the salivary glands from producing normal amounts of saliva, which can cause dry mouth.
When the mouth is too dry, infection-causing bacteria can multiply, which can lead to gum disease. Drinking plenty of water helps wash away oral bacteria, and it helps prevents dry mouth. Chewing sugarless gum and dissolving sugar-free hard candies in the mouth help stimulate the salivary glands to produce more saliva. If these interventions don't help, your dentist will recommend a special lubricating product to prevent oral dryness.
If you are going through menopause or have a salivary gland disorder, see both your family physician and dentist regularly. Doing so helps ensure that both your overall health and dental health remains optimal so that you can enjoy a lowered risk for gum disease.