Hormones are an essential component of your health. Stress hormones, growth hormones, and the most famous ones, sex hormones, affect your overall health in many ways. But did you know that hormones and your oral health have a relationship, too? Let's look at how these interactions affect your oral health.
Science Behind Why Hormones Effect Oral Health
Hormones' effect on the body is a complicated science. They have chemical messages that trigger different bodily functions, like little biological texts. These messages control your metabolism, regulate blood pressure and blood sugar, instigate growth and development, govern sex drives and operation, oversee reproduction, and foster sleep and emotional health. [i]
Hormones affect oral health, too, particularly when they change. The messages that interacting systems receive (or don't receive) change how they respond.
How Do Hormones Impact Your Oral Health?
The primary effect hormones and hormone changes have on oral health are through oral tissues. Your hormones affect the blood supply to your gum tissue.
Hormones also influence how you respond to infection and toxins in the oral cavity. For example, research suggests changes in sex hormones affect the progression of periodontal disease and bone loss. The interacting biological cells and growth regulators increase their sensitivity as sex hormones decrease, disrupting their usual responses to infection and inflammation, contributing to reduced bone mass and density in the jaw and supporting bone.[i]
These hormonal effects on oral health are especially acute for women who experience hormonal changes throughout their lives, starting with puberty, continuing with their menstrual cycle, and ending at menopause. For example, women's oral tissues have estrogen receptors. When estrogen levels change, so do the reactions in the oral tissues, which produce the symptoms and can lead to oral health issues like sensitive or bleeding gums, early-stage gum disease, or other oral problems.[ii]
The hormonal effects on men are less direct than those on women. Men tend to neglect overall and oral health more than women, so the impact of hormones on oral health for men is gender-related more than biological. For example, by ignoring things like heart health, men may be more likely to take prescription drugs for heart conditions that cause dry mouth, which can lead to tooth decay and gum disease. Also, men were less likely than women to know about the connection between overall health and oral health. This lack of awareness means they might not recognize the importance of regular care in either area, causing problems with both over time.[iii] To learn more about all the changes in women's oral health go through, read our "Women's Oral Health at all Life Stages" blog.
The Big Changes You Notice
Oral health and hormones cause changes you might notice. Symptoms vary between individuals, so think of this as a list of possible effects hormones could have on your mouth.
Many women experience tooth pain during hormonal fluctuations throughout the various life stages they have. This pain is associated with the buildup of bacterial load in the oral cavity due to changes in blood flow and saliva levels. Some people also experience an increase in sensitivity to hot and cold.
A decrease in sex hormones can also decrease saliva production, which leads to dry mouth. However, keeping the oral environment as wet as possible is vital as saliva makes it difficult for bacteria to build up in the teeth and gums.
During hormone shifts from puberty, menstrual cycles, birth control pills, pregnancy, and menopause, women could have red, swollen gums that might bleed during brushing and flossing. Hormonal changes to gum tissues' blood flow can also change how it responds to plaque and bacteria, leading to Menstrual or Pregnancy gingivitis, which are forms of gum disease. Gum disease can cause recession of the gums, exposing more of the tooth to potential decay.
When hormones change, some people feel a tingling or burning sensation in their tongue, which is also called glossodynia.[iv] In addition, some women might experience canker sores during their monthly cycles.[v]
Some people find that food tastes different during times of hormonal shift. Other research indicates that monthly cycles affect what foods women prefer. In the first half of the menstrual cycle, women prefer foods less intense in taste and spice, and in the second half, they want foods with more of both. These preferences strengthen the closer they are to ovulation or menstruation.[vi]
Changes in Oral Health with Pregnancy
Pregnant women experience many symptoms in their changing oral health. For starters, many women experience teeth sensitivity and pain. Contributing factors could be hormonal changes and disruptions to the home care routine (i.e., they don't want to brush in the morning because of morning sickness).
Many pregnant women have bleeding gums, a gum disease symptom that affects up to 75 percent of pregnant women.[i] Research from the American Dental Association (ADA) suggests that these women have Pregnancy Gingivitis, a mild form of gum disease's first stage.[ii] Untreated gum disease can lead to serious consequences, like bone and tooth loss. Plus, gum disease has a connection to preterm labor; women that experienced it were 45 percent more likely to have gum disease than those who went full term.[iii] To learn more about the changes in your oral health during pregnancy check out our "Oral Health During your Pregnancy" article.
Changes in Oral Health with Menopause?
Menopausal hormonal changes with estrogen and progesterone also influence changes in oral health. Many menopausal women experience changes in how the food tastes, teeth pain, and swollen or bleeding gums. Hormone changes also contribute to bone loss in the jaw and supporting bones of their teeth. In addition, saliva production may decrease, causing dry mouth and creating an environment hospitable for bacteria to build up in the oral cavity. Increased bacterial load contributes to tooth decay and gum disease as well.
Another mysterious symptom of hormonal changes in women's oral health is Burning Mouth Syndrome (BMS). BMS is when women feel a burning sensation in their mouths. However, the condition does not appear to change anything in the oral cavity. In other words, dental professionals can't see any physical indications of BMS.[iv] While there is no known cause for BMS, the prevailing theory is that it is a side effect of the complicated association between decreasing amounts of estrogen and the nervous system.[v] To learn more about the changes in your oral health during menopause check out our "What to Expect for your Oral Health during Menopause" article.
High Progesterone Impact
We have discussed the impact of decreasing estrogen on the oral cavity. However, the other female hormone, progesterone, also affects oral health. Increases in progesterone can increase your risk of developing plaque that causes gum disease. For pregnant women, high progesterone happens in the middle months of pregnancy and contributes to pregnancy gingivitis.[vi]
Progesterone levels also increase during women's monthly cycle. This high progesterone surge causes the same kind of gum tissue change as pregnancy, referred to as menstruation gingivitis. Other potential symptoms include bright red gums that are swollen and bleed, swollen salivary glands, and canker sores.[vii]
Low Testosterone Impact
Men have a similar risk as women of developing osteoporosis during hormone changes. Research indicates that men who experience a decrease in testosterone are at a higher risk for developing osteoporosis, which can affect their jaw and supporting bone.[i] Another study indicates that low testosterone is a good predictor of tooth loss.[ii]
Low testosterone is also associated with chronic gum disease. However, more research is needed to solidify and explain this relationship.[iii]
How Do You Treat Hormonal Gingivitis?
Catching gum disease early before it can become more serious is essential. If left untreated, hormonal gingivitis symptoms could worsen, leading to bone and eventually tooth loss.
Treating hormonal gingivitis involves a few things. It starts with a commitment to consistent home care. Start with brushing and flossing daily for at least two minutes using fluoride toothpaste.
Also, what you eat is a significant part of your oral health home care. Nutrient-dense foods are better for your oral (and overall) health. Eating a well-balanced diet with plenty of lean protein and fruits and vegetables is an excellent way to take care of yourself. It is also important to avoid sugary or starchy snacks because they contribute to the type of oral environment where bacteria thrive.
Another critical part of your care is visiting the dentist. Most people should see their dental team for cleanings and exams twice a year. However, some patients come in more often for cleanings, especially if they are at risk for decay or need gum disease treatment. Usually, you will have X-rays once a year to ensure that everything in your supporting bone and tissue is also healthy. In addition, your dental team might prescribe a toothpaste with more fluoride than usual, medicaments to help combat dry mouth or an antimicrobial mouth rinse.
Find a Dentist Near You
Do you have more questions about how hormones affect your oral health? The Smile Generation-trusted team understands how hormones can influence what's going in your mouth. They can assess your oral health, take your health history, and determine what you need for optimal oral healthcare.
For more information or to find a Smile Generation-trusted dentist near you, use our Find a Dentist Tool.
[i] myclevelandclinic.org. n.d. Hormones: What They Are, Function & Types. [online] Available at: <https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/22464-hormones> [Accessed 9 June 2022].
[i] Grover CM, More VP, Singh N, Grover S. Crosstalk between hormones and oral health in the mid-life of women: A comprehensive review. J Int Soc Prev Community Dent. 2014;4(Suppl 1):S5-S10. doi:10.4103/2231-0762.144559
[ii] perio.org. n.d. Gum Disease and Women - American Academy of Periodontology. [online] Available at: <https://www.perio.org/for-patients/gum-disease-information/gum-disease-and-women/> [Accessed 9 June 2022].
[iii] Lipsky MS, Su S, Crespo CJ, Hung M. Men and Oral Health: A Review of Sex and Gender Differences. Am J Mens Health. 2021;15(3):15579883211016361. doi:10.1177/15579883211016361
[iv] Menopausecentre.com.au. n.d. Burning Tongue. [online] Available at: <https://www.menopausecentre.com.au/burning-tongue/> [Accessed 9 June 2022].
[v] my.clevelandclinic.org. 2022. Hormones and Oral Health. [online] Available at: <https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/11192-hormones-and-oral-health> [Accessed 9 June 2022].
[vi] Lichterman, G., 2021. How does your sense of taste change across your menstrual cycle?. [online] myhormonology.com. Available at: <https://www.myhormonology.com/sense-of-taste-across-menstrual-cycle/#:~:text=During%20Week%201%20in%20your,the%20higher%20this%20hormone%20climbs.> [Accessed 9 June 2022].
[i] Pregnancy and Oral Health – Centers for Disease Control. Cdc.gov. https://www.cdc.gov/oralhealth/publications/features/pregnancy-and-oral-health.html. Accessed January 21, 2022.
[ii] Women's Hormones and Dental Health - American Dental Association. Mouthhealthy.org. https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/h/hormones. Accessed January 18, 2022.
[iii] Radochova V, Stepan M, Kacerovska Musilova I, et al. Association between periodontal disease and preterm prelabour rupture of membranes. J Clin Periodontol. 2019;46(2):189-196. doi:10.1111/jcpe.13067
[iv] Dahiya P, Kamal R, Kumar M, Niti, Gupta R, Chaudhary K. Burning mouth syndrome and menopause. Int J Prev Med. 2013;4(1):15-20.
[v] Taga, T., Ito, K., Takamatsu, K. et al. Menopausal symptoms are associated with oral sensory complaints in perimenopausal women: an observational study. BMC Women's Health 21, 262 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12905-021-01401-6
[vi] my.clevelandclinic.org. 2022. Hormones and Oral Health. [online] Available at: <https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/11192-hormones-and-oral-health> [Accessed 9 June 2022].
[vii] Frisbee, DMD, E., 2021. Women's Hormones and Oral Health. [online] WebMD.com. Available at: <https://www.webmd.com/oral-health/hormones-oral-health> [Accessed 9 June 2022].
[i] Benscosme, RDH, MA, CHES, J., 2016. Sex-Based Differences in Oral Health - Dimensions of Dental Hygiene | Magazine. [online] dimensionsofdentalhygiene.com. Available at: <https://dimensionsofdentalhygiene.com/article/sex-based-differences-in-oral-health/> [Accessed 9 June 2022].
[ii] Singh BP, Makker A, Tripathi A, Singh MM, Gupta V. Association of testosterone and bone mineral density with tooth loss in men with chronic periodontitis. J Oral Sci. 2011;53(3):333-339. doi:10.2334/josnusd.53.333
[iii] Kellesarian SV, Malmstrom H, Abduljabbar T, et al. "Low Testosterone Levels in Body Fluids Are Associated With Chronic Periodontitis". Am J Mens Health. 2017;11(2):443-453. doi:10.1177/1557988316667692