People taking oral contraceptives can have a wide range of side effects, including unpleasant ones like nausea or headaches, or even positive ones, like clearer skin. But did you know that taking oral birth control can affect your gum health as well?
How Oral Contraceptives Impact Gums
Oral contraceptives change the balance of hormones in the body to prevent ovulation. Without ovulation, there’s no egg to become fertilized, and the person taking the contraceptives can’t get pregnant. It may seem like a pretty simple process, but in reality, changes in hormone levels can affect the entire body — including the mouth!
There are a few different things that change the hormone levels in women’s bodies: Pregnancy, menopause, hormone replacement therapy, and oral contraceptives. All of these have been proven to increase the likelihood of gum inflammation and even risk of gum disease.
Gum disease is an extremely common and extremely dangerous oral health issue. Around 80% of Americans have at least mild gum disease, and most of them go undiagnosed due to the fact that early gum disease symptoms are easy to miss. However, if gum disease goes on to become severe, it can result in tooth loss and even lead to increased risk of stroke, diabetes, and heart disease. That’s right: Gum disease can be deadly.
Even worse, studies have shown that the longer people take oral contraceptives, the worse their resulting gum health becomes.
How Can You Protect Your Gums?
For many people, taking oral contraceptives is non-negotiable. Some people take oral contraceptives for non-birth control related reasons, such as to reduce particularly painful periods, treat polycystic ovary syndrome, or protect against pelvic inflammatory disease. And even those taking it for birth control may not be interested in or eligible for non-hormonal methods. So how can you protect your gum health against the side effects of oral contraceptives?
Step one is to ensure that you are doing everything you can to perform top notch oral hygiene. Everyone is susceptible to gum disease, and the best way to protect against it is to brush twice a day, floss daily, and see your dentist regularly for checkups. If you aren’t sure if your brushing and flossing is the best it can be, you can always ask your dentist for a refresher on how to perform oral hygiene properly. Ineffective brushing and flossing won’t protect you from gum disease, no matter how regularly you do it!
Another key part of maintaining good oral health while taking a medication that compromises it is to communicate well with your dentist. Any time you’re taking a medication that might impact your oral health, it’s a good idea to tell your dentist about it so that they can keep an eye out for related symptoms, and suggest habits and treatments that could prevent or treat medication-related problems.