oral health

Dental Health Week: Women and Oral Health

Dental Health Week is the Australian Dental Association's major annual oral health promotion event which kicks off on the 1st of August and concludes on the 7th.  Its aim is to educate Australians about the importance of maintaining good oral health in every aspect of their lives.

This year, the ADA will be focusing on women and their oral health.  Recent studies have revealed that many women are unaware that significant changes in their life also presents substantial change in their oral health.  

Here are some of the life changing stages in women that can affect the health of their mouth

Puberty in Girls

Puberty is one of the momentous life stages in women. During puberty, there’s a lot of things happening in the body. This includes increases in sex hormones estrogen and progesterone. An increased level of hormones can elevate blood volume in the gums. This condition can result in “puberty gingivitis”, which is characterized by swelling and redness of gums. Gums bleed more easily than usual especially when irritated by food particles and plaque.


Although the effects of menstruation varies from one female individual to another, the increased amount of sex hormones in the body coupled with build-up of plaque can result to swelling and bleeding gums. This is considered to be a temporary form of gingivitis. Fortunately, this condition disappears once her period begins. Women taking oral contraceptives (“the pill”) may find a similar kind of gingivitis seen in pregnant women. This condition is known as “pregnancy gingivitis”. 


The stage of pregnancy in a woman’s life is considered to be exciting.  As the condition of the body changes during pregnancy, so does the mouth’s. Oral health can be affected due to hormonal changes. Pregnancy gingivitis is a common gum condition characterized by puffiness of gums. This condition is considered temporary but can also progress further if ignored.

Although not all pregnant women suffer from morning sickness, there are some who do. Unfortunately, this can affect the teeth.  Acid in the vomit can erode the teeth.  Brushing immediately can cause more damage to teeth by stripping away the enamel.


Women between the ages of 47 and 55 undergo menopausal stage. This is characterized by a declining level of hormones. Unfortunately, this stage also presents different oral health effects such as dry mouth, swollen gums, burning sensations and altered taste.  Some of the medications taken by women going through menopause can also have a detrimental effect on gums and teeth.

No matter what life stage you are in, there’s no need to suffer from these hormonal changes. Brushing, flossing and seeing your dentists regularly will help manage these different oral health conditions. 

If you have any further questions and concerns about women and oral health, I highly recommend that you seek professional dental advice as soon as possible.



The Importance of Optimum Oral Health During Pregnancy

Pregnancy is one of the most exciting moments in a woman’s life. I personally can attest to this fact as I was able to experience my wife’s excitement and joy during all her 3 pregnancies. 

But did you know that pregnancy could lead to dental problems in some women? One of the most commonly overlooked pre-natal assessments is oral health. Based on recent studies, it was estimated that only between 22-34% of women consult a dentist during pregnancy. Just for the record, pregnancy itself doesn’t damage your teeth automatically. 

So what are the most common oral health problems during pregnancy? 

Pregnancy Gingivitis

This is considered as the most common oral disease in pregnancy. About 60-75% of pregnant women develop this condition. It is also estimated that half of these figures are pre-existing. During pregnancy, the combination of changes in oral environment and levels of female hormones can lead to decrease in immune system in the mouth leading to redness and swelling of the gums.

Periodontitis (Gum Disease)

Periodontitis is an irreversible condition that affects both jawbone and gums. This oral disease is more destructive compared to gingivitis. Additionally, this disease affects approximately 30% of women of childbearing age. Recent studies have also shown a direct link between gum disease and pre-term birth as well as low birth weight.

Dental Decay

Changes in female hormones and oral environment can result in increased acidity in the mouth. This can lead to demineralization (softening) of the tooth surface and resulting in cavitation (holes).

Pregnancy Oral Tumor

Pregnancy oral tumors are localized infection caused by increased levels of hormone (progesterone) and irritants (e.g. plaque, bacteria, etc.).  Although this oral disease is not as common as gingivitis, pregnancy oral tumor can affect 5% of pregnant women.

So if you are an expecting mum or if you are planning on getting pregnant, here are my top 5 professional recommendations:

1.    Prevention is better than cure. Include “Visit the dentist” on your to do list. It is more ideal to do dental elective procedures before getting pregnant.

2.    Make sure you have an excellent oral hygiene regimen. You are less likely to have dental problems if you already have good oral hygiene. 

 3.    Minimize high sugar food intake and consider a low-sugar diet instead. This will decrease the risk of dental decay.

 4.    Increase your Calcium and Vitamin D intake during pregnancy. These will assist in protecting your bone mass and provide nutritional needs to your developing baby.

 5.    Quit Smoking! Smoking will increase the risks of oral diseases such as gum disease. In addition, smoking also has a direct negative impact on your baby’s health.

If you have any additional queries and have concerns about pregnancy and oral health, it is highly recommended that you seek professional dental advice as soon as possible.


Oral Health and Cancer


February 4, 2016 was World Cancer Day.  Its theme, “We Can .I Can.”, focuses on how every individual can play a role in decreasing the burden of cancer.  As a dental health professional, it is important that we provide and increasecommunity awareness about cancer.


According to Dr Peter Aldritt, Chair of the ADA’s Oral Health Committee, “We urge cancer patients and people living with cancer to be aware of the possible oral health side effects that could arise during and after treatment. There are a number of simple things that patients can do to make their experience of treatment that little bit easier.”  

Receiving cancer treatment will always be the main priority for a patient. However, it is important that cancer patients seek consultations with their dentist about their diagnosis as soon as they can. It is essential that a thorough full oral health assessment is done prior to undergoing cancer treatment. It is always advisable that patients have healthy teeth and gums before commencing their cancer treatment.

The most common side effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy are the following:

1.      Ulcers in the mouth

2.      Gum infections

3.      Bleeding gums

4.      Dry mouth

5.      Altered taste

Unfortunately for patients, these oral complications may last for months or years. These can cause discomfort and pain for some. 

Here are a few simple tips that can minimise oral health discomfort:

1.      Keep mouth moist by sipping water frequently

2.      Minimise caffeine intake such as coffee or tea – reduces dehydration

3.      Avoid sugary food and drinks

4.      Avoid acidic food and drinks

5.      Avoid hard, dry, spicy food

6.      Chew sugar-free gum – helps stimulate saliva in the mouth

7.      Use dry mouth gel or spra

If you have any further questions and concerns about how cancer and its treatment can affect your oral health, I highly recommend that you seek professional dental advice as soon as possible.

Dr. Rouel Vergara DMD