Farhoumand Dentistry
8150 Leesburg Pike #920
Vienna, VA 22182
(703) 636-2442

(703) 636-2442

Women and dental health

October 16, 2015

Who has better teeth, men or women?

67% of the Farhoumand Dentistry Facebook page fans are women so it is time for us to ask relevant questions about women and dental health:

Who has better teeth, men or women? Are women genetically favored or disfavored when it comes to their oral health?

Women and dental health. Image copyright: Alixsei Filimontsev

Women and dental health. Image copyright: Alixsei Filimontsev

An article in the Auburn Reporter quotes surveys showing that the average woman smiles 62 times per day, while the average man only smiles eight times a day. It has also been demonstrated that women show their teeth more often than men when they smile. It would be great to think that women are genetically blessed when it comes to their dental health; however, many are not.

A study done at the Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Center in Berlin demonstrated that structural differences in teeth between men and women were not visible to expert eyes more than 50 percent of the time. Environmental and systemic factors play a much larger role in determining dental outcomes between men and women.

Numerous studies have shown that women are more likely to have cavities compared to men, yet overall dental health is better for women.

According to research in the Journal of Periodontology, women are almost twice as likely to have gone to the dentist in the past year. This proactive approach leads women to have lower rates of gum disease, due to more frequent cleanings, and a higher percentage of retained permanent teeth, as women are less likely to take a “wait until it hurts” approach to dental care.

Routine checkups and cleanings are especially important for women, as changes in hormone levels may cause females to be more susceptible to dental disease. A lower flow of saliva is often found accompanying these hormonal changes. With less saliva, food and plaque may remain on the teeth for longer, causing tooth decay and gum disease. From puberty to pregnancy to menopause, the various phases of a woman’s life create a need for regular dental care.

Puberty and dental health

By the time you reach puberty, your baby teeth are likely gone and you now have a fresh set of pearly whites. Proper oral hygiene and wise dietary choices will help you to keep these teeth for a lifetime.

Many teens start to notice the appearance of their teeth as they are going through puberty. Some may start orthodontic treatment to straighten a crooked smile. Special care in regards to oral hygiene needs to occur during this time to prevent cavities from forming while in braces. If bacteria remain on the teeth, weakening of the enamel can occur, which often appears as chalky white spots. If left to progress, these weakened areas will break down, forming holes in the teeth requiring restorative treatment.

Regular brushing and flossing, along with use of a Waterpik (a sort of miniature pressure washer for your mouth) can help you to achieve a healthy, beautiful smile, without multiple white spots, once braces are removed.

Increased levels of estrogen and progesterone when puberty begins can cause blood vessels in the gums to dilate when bacteria and plaque are left on the teeth. This can lead to increased swelling and bleeding when brushing and flossing. Without regular dental care, this gingivitis (bleeding and infection of the gums) can progress to periodontitis (where permanent bone loss around the teeth can occur).

Problems with piercings

In the later teen years, a recent trend toward oral piercings is a cause for alarm. Tongue and lip piercings can cause gum recession, cracked teeth, and orthodontic problems – including gaps that form between the front teeth.

Researchers examined the mouths of 52 young adults in a study published in the Journal of Periodontology and found that almost 50 percent of the participants who wore either long or short barbells (a type of tongue jewelry) for four or more years had fractured teeth.

The study also found gum recession, a problem that can lead to tooth loss, in 35 percent of those who had pierced tongues for four or more years. Oral piercings can lead to swelling on the tongue and life threatening infections that may even close off the airway.

Pregnancy and dental health

You may have heard the old wives tale, of “gain a child, lose a tooth.” This statement refers to the variety of hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy that may cause dental issues.

Many mothers-to-be suffer from morning sickness, which may cause them to throw-up frequently throughout the day. The acidic nature of vomit, and frequency that it is in contact with the teeth, can cause significant erosion of enamel, leading to cavities and worn-down teeth. Resist the urge to brush your teeth right away after vomiting, as the enamel is temporarily weakened from the recent acid attack and may be abraded off by brushing. Instead, rinse with a mixture of baking soda and water, to neutralize the acidic environment in your mouth.

While pregnant, your nutritional needs and desires may change. Many pregnant women crave frequent carbohydrate snacks. The frequency of these sugary snacks is what will cause cavities to form. Better snacks include cheese, yogurt, veggies and hummus, and nuts. During the third and fourth months of pregnancy, your baby’s teeth are developing, and research has shown a link between deficiencies in calcium, vitamins A and D, and protein in the mother’s diet to oral defects in the child. Yet another reason to focus on healthy snacks.

As a result of varying hormone levels, 40 percent of women will develop gingivitis sometime during their pregnancy, a condition called pregnancy gingivitis. This is due to the body’s hyper-reactive response to plaque and bacteria left on the teeth and gums. Again, if left untreated, this can progress to gum disease and bone loss around your teeth. Research has shown a link between pre-term low birth weight babies and mothers with untreated gum disease. Keep your dental hygiene in check while pregnant.

If you notice a large isolated red or purple growth on your gums, often during the second trimester, you may have a pregnancy tumor. This is a non-cancerous inflammatory growth, appearing between your teeth and is thought to be related to excess plaque in the mouth. Often pregnancy tumors will shrink on their own after the baby’s birth, though if uncomfortable, a dentist may offer removal.

Women often avoid dental care at a time when they may need it the most. A study published in the August 2015 Journal of the American Dental Association has shown that dental anesthetics show no harmful affects on developing babies at any stage of pregnancy. Another study has stated that routine preventative, diagnostic and restorative dental treatment during pregnancy does not increase adverse postnatal outcomes. October celebrates Healthy Babies Month and Children’s Health Month, please remember to take care of yourself and your baby’s developing smile.

Menopause and dental health

Between the ages of 47 and 55, most women will go though menopause. During this time frame, women may experience oral changes such as a burning sensation in the oral tissue, changes in taste, and dry mouth. After menopause, women have an increased risk of developing osteoporosis. Many medications used to treat osteoporosis, such as Fosamax, Boniva, Actonel, Reclast, and Zometa, may cause problems with healing after dental extractions. It is in your best interest to keep current with your dental treatment and to visit a dentist prior to starting these medications.

Be proactive with your oral health and you can keep your teeth for a lifetime.

Should you have further questions about dentistry, visit Farhoumand Dentistry or call us at (703) 636-2442.