7 Ways Your Period Is Screwing Up Your Teeth & Gums
Have you ever noticed bleeding gums during period/menstrual cycles? Do you ever seem to pick up on things like your menstrual cycle, tooth sensitivity, or gum swelling happening at the same time? If so, you’re not losing your mind. During your menstrual cycle, toothache symptoms or gum sensitivity may be more noticeable. Even if you never struggle with dental problems or have impeccable oral hygiene habits. So along with the cramps, bloating, headaches, or irritability, you can also blame a few other things on your period. In this case, a few different dental problems.
Fortunately, having menstruation gingivitis and bleeding gums during your period or other hormone-induced dental issues is usually temporary. Both other conditions aren’t.
Is Menstruation Screwing Up Your Dental Health?
Any time you notice things like your menstrual cycle, toothache symptoms, or gum irritation happening at the same time, you may wonder if it’s your hormones to blame.
When women have their periods, all sorts of body parts can seem out of whack. Our mouths are one of them. Try to track your symptoms to see when they line up with your menstrual cycle. If they’re spot on every month and you’re up to date on your dental care, your hormones are probably to blame.
Hormones And Dental Health
We’ve known for decades that a woman’s hormones can affect her mouth. “Pregnancy tumors” for example, are a type of benign growth that we sometimes see on a woman’s gums when she’s pregnant. These unsightly, tumor-like growths can look scary, not to mention hurt or cause tooth pain. They tend to be hormone-induced and finally improve once you give birth. But sometimes they’re so severe that they need to be surgically removed.
It’s no surprise then, that some women on their menstrual cycle experience symptoms of toothaches, bleeding gums, tooth sensitivity, or a bad taste in their mouth.
1) Swollen Gums and Bleeding Gums
Menstruation gingivitis presents itself as swollen gums and gums that bleed whenever you’re brushing and flossing. This is the #1 oral side effect that we see during menstruation. Even people with absolutely perfectly clean teeth who floss twice a day aren’t immune. The tenderness or light bleeding typically goes right along with their period, then improves once their cycle is over. During pregnancy, the symptoms tend to last quite a bit longer.
Hormones are usually only the blame if you’re seeing your gum sensitivity go through cycles every few weeks. If it’s a steady flow of gingivitis that you have, there’s something else going on (like poor oral hygiene.)
2) Toothaches and Tooth Sensitivity
Some of us tend to eat different types of foods or crave certain drinks when we’re on our period. All of that extra snacking could lead to extra plaque along our gums, which irritate our teeth if there’s any gum recession. Other times, significant gum swelling can make it feel like our teeth are hurting when it’s actually our gum tissues.
But actual tooth sensitivity is usually triggered by temperature changes (eating ice cream or chewing on ice chips) or something like a cavity. If your teeth are particularly sensitive, make sure you’re not using any whitening products or sucking on lemons. An anti-sensitivity toothpaste usually helps as long as you’re using it every day.
3) Dry Mouth
Dry mouth (xerostomia) can be brought on by a variety of things, such as alcohol intake, medications, smoking, salty foods, or even what mouthwash you’re using. If you’re on your period, you might notice more dry mouth symptoms.
Xerostomia is a common side-effect of birth control pills. It’s common to see different symptoms when your body is transitioning between your weeks of being “on” and “off” the pill for your period.
We now know that menopause symptoms can also trigger dry mouth. If you’re pre-menopausal and still having regular cycles but you notice less saliva than you used to, you could be getting closer to phasing into that major hormonal change.
4) Canker Sores
You might not have known this, but it’s entirely normal for a lot of women to get aphthous ulcers or canker sores during their period. Usually, it’s right before or during their menstrual cycle, rather than afterward.
Other times where we see ulcers flare-up are when we’re stressed, starting to feel sick or run down, or maybe even out in the sun a little too much. Ulcers can also be triggered by salty or acidic foods. If your diet changes during your period, food choices may be to blame for any ulcers.
5) Jaw Osteoporosis/Problems with Bone Density
Although it’s not really from your period, women who have inadequate estrogen (such as those who are pre-menopausal or already experiencing menopause) will possibly see bone loss on their dental X-rays. Menopausal women are more highly at risk for a decrease in bone density throughout their bodies, which is why it’s easier to break bones or experience physical injuries. In some cases, major bone shrinkage can occur in the jaw.
Most dentists can screen for hormone-induced bone loss in your jaw when taking full-mouth panoramic or CBCT dental X-rays at their practice.
6) Abnormal Taste Sensation
Does it seem like you have a funny taste in your mouth, or that your tastebuds work differently whenever you’re on your menstrual cycle? If your gums bleed, it can make it seem like you have a metallic taste coming from somewhere inside your mouth. And since your period makes your gums more likely to bleed, it’s probably what’s to blame.
Some women also tend to be a little anemic during their period, which can make their gums bleed even more heavily, adding to the metallic taste.
There are even studies to show that some women are more sensitive to sweet and bitter tastes during their period, because of specific hormones in their bloodstream.
7) Mouth Sloughing
If you’re prone to getting aphthous ulcers, you might also be more at risk to see a little skin peeling (sloughing) around your mouth whenever you’re about to start your period. Especially since estrogen levels drop, which can make your skin seem a little more dull than normal. But any heavy-duty sloughing of your oral tissues is probably more from an active ingredient in your toothpaste. Be sure to let your dentist know what’s going on!
Home Care Is Key
It’s easy to blame our bleeding gums on our period/menstrual cycle. But truth be told, severe gingivitis from your period is extremely rare. As in, we hardly ever see it in the dental practice. Usually, the inflammation is already a problem because of a lack of adequate home care. So, when there are already factors that cause gingivitis before you start your period, your body may be even more reactive to the plaque along your gumlines.
Here’s exactly what you need to do to prevent bleeding or swollen gums:
- Gently brush along your gums every time you brush your teeth
- Floss around and between every tooth, every day
- Brush for a minimum of two minutes, twice a day
- Invest in a quality electric toothbrush
- Use an alcohol-free essential oil-based mouthwash after brushing and flossing
- Schedule regular professional dental cleanings at least once every six months
- Have the right tools to clean hard-to-reach areas, such as water flossers, proxy brushes, or floss threaders
When to See a Dentist
If you’re experiencing bleeding gums or swollen gum tissues all month long, your period probably isn’t to blame. More likely, gum disease or tartar buildup is. You’ll need to see a dentist for an exam and gum treatment, such as a deep cleaning.
Perhaps your gums are so swollen during your menstrual cycle that you can’t even brush your teeth. That isn’t normal, either. In those types of scenarios, you’ll need to seek out the care of a medical provider and probably have a few tests run. In some cases, pregnancy can make swelling or bleeding gums even more severe.
Closely communicating with your dental team and gynecologist will help you determine the best treatment.
teethtalkgirl content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or medical doctor to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.
Our medical affairs team works hard to ensure the accuracy and integrity by cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).J Clin Med. Evaluation of the Association between Menstrual Cycle Irregularity and Dental Pain or Chewing Discomfort in Women before Menopause. J Clin Med. 2019 Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6518294/. July 6, 2022 Mouth Healthy. Hormones and Dental Health: What Every Woman Needs to Know. Mouth Healthy. NaN Available at: https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/h/hormones. July 6, 2022