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How Gender Affects Oral Health

Dr. Dennis Nagata Weighs In

Dr. Dennis Nagata, of Landmark Dental Group, wants women to be aware that they face different oral health concerns than men. Women’s health is affected by changes in reproductive hormones that bring about changes in their body, including their mouth. These changes are often overlooked. However, because of the frequency of dental visits, dentists are in a unique position to utilize gender and age-related care to improve oral health.

Each phase of a woman’s life presents different levels of hormones. Puberty, menstruation, pregnancy and menopause all affect how the gums respond to plaque. Some of the ways that the different phases of a woman’s life affects oral health include:

  • Menstruation — Some women find that just prior to their period, their gums swell and bleed. Other women may experience cold or canker sores prior to their period.
  • Hormonal Contraceptives — Birth control, such as the pill, shot, vaginal ring, or hormonal intrauterine device, can raise the levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone which can make gums sensitive, red or swollen.
  • Pregnancy — Gingivitis often occurs during pregnancy, where gums become irritated by dental plaque buildup on the teeth. Prenatal tooth care is important to help avoid red, inflamed and bleeding gums.
  • Menopause — Oral symptoms during menopause can frequently include dry mouth, red or inflamed gums, oral discomfort or pain, burning sensations and altered taste.
  • Osteoporosis — Bone loss in the jaw has been shown to occur when women suffer from osteoporosis. This can lead to tooth loss when the bones that support teeth lose density.

There are other aspects of a woman’s oral health that a dentist can provide support for. In addition to overall dental health, Dr. Nagata provides diagnosis and treatment for the following conditions:

​Temporomandibular Joint Disorders (TMD): Dental function relies on the temporomandibular joint. Improper jaw movement because of a bad bite can create inflammation and muscular strain, prompting pain that is referred to as temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD). Women have been shown to be more likely to seek help for symptoms of TMD and orofacial pain. Though doctors are not sure why this is so, studies have drawn a correlation between estrogen and pain in jaw joints. Some people believe it could also be related to the difference in the jaw joint structure between men and women. Dental examination can provide a proper diagnosis. There are exercises and remedies that can include using an oral appliance. New technology, like TEKSCAN which measures forces on the teeth, helps with the diagnosis and adjustment of the bite to balance the forces evenly when biting.

Snoring: All snoring is abnormal. It’s caused by obstructed breathing. Though it can start at any age, the incidence of snoring does increase with age. Weight gain and loss of muscle tone can be the reason that aging increases snoring, however, even children are known to snore. Women may start snoring during menopause due to hormonal changes, including decreased progesterone.

Snoring can also be a symptom of Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), which is a serious medical problem. Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome (UARS) is another form of obstructed breathing, though not as severe as OSA. The causes of both conditions are similar—a naturally narrowed air passage, the position of the tongue during sleep or collapsing fatty tissues in the throat. With both conditions, sleep is disrupted, and the result is not feeling refreshed in the morning. This can lead to chronic fatigue and excessive daytime sleepiness.

The major difference between OSA and UARS is OAS involves pauses and decreases in breathing. UARS rarely includes these symptoms, but instead involves difficulty in breathing through the obstructed airway. Also, OSA is often found in overweight individuals and is more likely to affect men. UARS can affect normal weight individuals and men and women equally.

A thorough diagnosis is required to determine the best course of treatment which can include a laser treatment called Nightlase or using an oral appliance to help reduce and sometimes eliminate snoring.

Anyone looking for a dentist that is aware of all aspects that can affect oral health can contact Dr. Dennis Nagata for a consultation.

Location: Waikiki Landmark Building, 1888 Kalakaua Ave., Suite C311, Honolulu. For more information, call 808-946-6326 or visit SmilePower.net.

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