Q. Why is it important that women be concerned with their oral health?
A. For many women, oral health changes throughout the different stages of their life, due to surges in sex hormone levels. The dentist may request to see the patient more frequently during hormonal surges.
Q. Gum disease tends to run in my family. What's the best way to prevent and treat it?
A. To prevent periodontal disease, dentists recommend the basics to all their patients: Brush at least twice a day, and floss once a day to remove plaque. Most people should see a dentist twice a year. Because of family history, some women may need to brush and see their dentist more often. There are also new medications that help fight gum disease. Recently, the Food and Drug Administration approved an oral drug, Periostat, which may improve tooth attachment and stop tissue destruction. Two other new products, Atridox (an antibiotic) and PerioChip (an antibacterial), are applied to the gums by your dentist. These medications are to be used in conjunction with traditional gum disease treatments, such as scaling and root planing.
Q. What problems occur for girls during puberty?
A. The surge in hormones that occurs during puberty may cause swollen gums, especially during menstruation. Herpes-type lesions and ulcers also can develop. They also may experience sensitive gums that react more to irritants.
Q. What gum problems may occur during menstruation?
A. Women may experience red, swollen, tender gums (gingivitis) a few days prior to their menstrual period because of increased levels of progesterone in their bodies. These changes occur because of an exaggerated gingival (gum) response to bacterial plaque and generally resolve toward the end of the menstrual period or shortly thereafter. To combat these symptoms, a dentist may recommend more frequent cleanings, fastidious home care, and possibly an anti-microbial mouth rinse or special toothpaste.
Q. Can women develop cold sores related to the menstruation cycle?
A. Yes, a few days before menstruation begins, some women may experience an activation of cold sores (herpes labialis). These sores occur on the lips and usually heal by themselves within 10 to 14 days. A dentist and/or physician may prescribe a topical medication for treatment.