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Chances are you've blamed your period for a bloated belly, a chocolate-fudge brownie craving, or an outburst of emotion after watching a smartphone commercial. But have you ever thought to hold your raging hormones responsible for puffy, sensitive gums? Probably not. Yet research shows that hormonal highs and lows can impact your oral health, big time. In fact, a brand-new study by researchers at Case Western Reserve University reports that although women tend to maintain better dental health practices than guys do, we're at greater risk for pie-hole problems because of our hormones. And these issues can put us at risk for more serious health issues such as heart disease, miscarriage, bone loss, and more.
"The gingival tissues have lots of estrogen receptors that respond to hormonal fluctuations," says Susan Karabin, D.D.S., past president of the American Academy of Periodontology. "As a result, you may see symptoms appear in your mouth in accordance with your menstrual cycle."
With this in mind, here's how you can best care for your yapper while minimizing pain, inflammation, and bleeding at every point in your cycle.
The best time to: Schedule a cleaning?
The week after your period.
"There's no bad time to go for a cleaning," Karabin says. "But high estrogen levels a few days before your period can cause gingival swelling and inflammation." This can throw off the results when your dentist measures your pocket depthÃ¢â‚¬”the space around each tooth. (A depth greater than 3 mm may indicate gum disease.) Plus, puffy gums tend to be extra sensitive. As a result, the cleaning could feel more painful than if you visit your dentist shortly after your period ends when estrogen levels dip back down.
The best time to: Be extra vigilant about brushing and flossing?
The week before your period.
"Hormonal changes don't cause gum disease, but they can worsen some underlying issues such as inflammation," Karabin says. Symptoms tend to be worse two days before your period starts, a condition called menstruation gingivitis. "Although it's always important to maintain healthy oral habits, try to be even more diligent about brushing twice a day and flossing daily right before your period to keep your gums as clean as possible," Karabin adds.
The best time to: Undergo oral surgery procedures?
The days right after your period.
Whether you need a cavity filled or a tooth yanked, aim for the time when you're supposed to stop bleeding. That's when hormone levels are lower and your gums are the least sensitive, Karabin says. There's another hormonal surge that occurs before ovulation (between day 11 through 21 in a 28-day cycleÃ¢â‚¬”day one is the first day of your period). This can also cause inflammation and make procedures even less comfortable, so try to schedule your root canal shortly after your period ends.
More from WH:
The Health Risks of Oral Sex
Get Whiter Teeth
3 Ways to Beat PMS
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