Although women tend to take better care of their oral health than men do, their fluctuating hormones make them more susceptible than men to gum disease.
Gum disease, also called periodontal disease, can range from simple inflammation of the gums, called gingivitis, to periodontitis, when the gums pull away from the teeth, leaving open spaces that become infected.
As noted above, women are more susceptible to gum disease due to fluctuations in their hormones. The hormones progesterone and estrogen, which regulate the menstrual cycle, can increase blood flow to the gums and can make them more sensitive to irritants like food and plaque. During times of hormonal change – such as puberty, menstruation, and pregnancy – they can change conditions in the mouth in a way that make it easier for bacteria to grow beneath the gums and around the teeth.
As girls reach puberty, they experience a surge in both estrogen and progesterone, which can increase their risk of gum disease. If they are undergoing orthodontic treatment, the condition can be even more difficult to manage.
Many women experience oral changes during their monthly cycle due to the increase in progesterone. Called menstruation gingivitis, it usually occurs a day or two before the start of your period and clears up shortly after your period has started.
Women who take certain contraceptives, or birth control pills, that contain progesterone have a higher risk of gum disease.
Since hormone levels rise considerably during pregnancy, pregnant women have a higher risk of gum disease. Gingivitis is especially common from the second to eighth month of pregnancy, when a woman has increased levels of progesterone in her system.
Following menopause, women can become more susceptible to periodontitis, the more destructive form of gum disease. This may be due to age-related changes in the mouth, hormonal changes due to menopause, and/or medications taken to combat diseases.