Are Your Hormones Making Your Gums Bleed?

What is hormone-induced gingivitis?

Hormone-induced gingivitis is a type of gingivitis that occurs specifically during changes in hormonal levels .  It is a very common condition that we see frequently in our office.  Hormone-induced gingivitis causes a patient to have gums that are swollen, red, tender, and bleed easily.   The tenderness and bleeding often make oral hygiene routines uncomfortable, and patients sometimes avoid proper brushing and flossing techniques because it hurts.  Healthy, natural gum tissues are light pink, relatively flat and tightly adhered to the teeth.  The appearance of bright red, puffy gums is unsightly, giving a diseased look to the mouth, and may cause embarrassment.

What causes hormone-induced gingivitis?

The name says it all: it is induced by hormones.  Rapid swings in hormone levels (most notably estrogen, progesterone, and chorionic gonadotropin) can have a profound effect on gum tissues.  Research has shown that these hormone levels cause two important changes to occur:

  • Hormone changes affect the tiny blood vessels in the gum tissue, increasing the blood flow in this area (which can cause swelling) and changing the permeability of the blood vessels (which makes the tissue bleed more easily).
  • Hormone changes also affect the types of bacteria present in gum tissues. Research shows that gum tissues in patients with hormone changes such as pregnancy or taking birth control pills have more dangerous bacteria than patients without hormone changes.  By “more dangerous”, we mean stronger and more likely to cause gum disease.

Who is at risk for hormone-induced gingivitis?

Hormone-induced gingivitis is common in children going through puberty, both girls and boys.  It is also prevalent in women at various stages of hormone changes, including menstrual cycles, the use of birth control pills, pregnancy, and menopause.  This higher risk for gum disease makes oral hygiene even more important than it already is.  People with poor oral hygiene are more likely to experience hormone-induced gingivitis than those with good plaque control and consistent oral hygiene habits.  People who have infrequent and inconsistent dental cleanings are also at an increased risk.

What can you do about hormone-induced gingivitis?

  • Practice perfect oral hygiene. Do not miss a single day of flossing!  Use an electric toothbrush; they are shown to effectively remove more plaque than a manual toothbrush.
  • Add a mouthwash to your oral hygiene routine, and use it twice daily. In addition to an over-the-counter alcohol-free mouthwash, you can swish with warm salt water throughout the day.  Some patients require a prescription mouthwash to get the inflammation under control.
  • Stay on schedule with professional dental cleanings. Your dental hygienist is able to remove bacterial buildup from areas you might be missing, even with good oral hygiene.
  • Consider increasing the frequency of professional dental cleanings. Many of our patients with severe gingivitis during puberty or pregnancy have their teeth cleaned every 3 months, instead of every 6 months.  This reduces the severity of gingivitis by reducing the amount of bacterial buildup accumulated between cleanings.
  • Talk to Dr. Chowning about other recommendations he may have to improve your gingivitis. There are many additional oral hygiene products available to help reduce gum inflammation.  He will determine which one will be most beneficial for your unique situation.

Think you or your child may have hormone-induced gingivitis?

Call our office at 940-382-1750 to set up a consultation with Dr. Chowning.  He will provide you with all the tools you need to fight gum disease while your hormones are raging.