Did you know that, as a woman, your oral health directly relates to your hormonal health? We spoke with Dr. Lauren Poole, holistic dentist and owner of Brentwood’s Sweet Truth Dental, to learn about women’s unique oral health needs and how they correlate to fertility, pregnancy, and more.
Sweet Truth Dental primarily caters to females, as Dr. Poole believes these gender-specific differences should not only be understood but addressed regularly for optimizing oral health and in turn, whole-body health. She does so by paying particular attention to how hormones change the ecosystem of our mouths. “I usually explain this to my female patients by saying that, not only do our hormones actually affect our oral health, but in turn, our oral health also affects our hormones,” explains Dr. Poole.
As hormones fluctuate, this affects the pH — or acidity level — in your mouth. This small change can lead to many disruptions and imbalances in your mouth, not only causing more harmful bacteria to form but also killing good bacteria. Dr. Poole adds that hormones can also affect cravings, tempting us to chase more carbohydrates. The combination of high acidity and more carbohydrates can then create the perfect recipe for oral health issues like tooth decay and inflammation.
Hormones are especially known to change during pregnancy, which is why Sweet Truth Dental offers more frequent checkups for pregnant patients. During a prenatal care visit, Dr. Poole discusses common oral health issues not often discussed in traditional dentistry. This includes pregnancy gingivitis, mouth bleeding, and hyper-reactivity. Sweet Truth Dental also offers postnatal care, which helps new mothers restore gums and teeth to their pre-pregnancy condition.
Dr. Poole adds that women are often referred to Sweet Truth Dental when experiencing fertility issues. During a pre-pregnancy screening, patients can receive counseling and a treatment plan to ensure there’s no unnecessary inflammation in the body that could be contributing to infertility.
Our oral health needs and hormones fluctuate throughout life — not just during pregnancy. Dr. Poole says oral health problems can begin in adolescence when girls first start experiencing hormones and menstrual cycles. This makes gingivitis and canker sores more common in teenage girls. Similarly, women undergoing menopause are likely to experience conditions like dry mouth or burning mouth syndrome.
Dr. Poole also tells us that women often experience different oral health issues than men, even with better hygiene practices. “I get a lot of couples in my office,” she says. “I always say, ‘If I had a nickel for every time I saw a couple where the wife has amazing oral hygiene care and still experiences dental decay or gingivitis, and the husband hasn’t flossed ever and hasn’t experienced dental issues, I’d be a rich woman.’ It’s so common because women have a much higher hurdle to jump with all of our hormonal fluctuations.”
Although these oral health problems can pop up in women more frequently than men, there are ways to prevent them. In addition to good oral hygiene and regular dental checkups every six months, Dr. Poole says it’s essential to look at the oral hygiene products you’re using. In fact, she conducts product reviews and discussions with her patients at every checkup. “We often switch out our skincare products, our supplements, and change our diets, but a lot of times we’re not changing what we’re using in our mouths and swallowing twice a day, every day,” she says. “I often suggest looking at the chemicals that are in your oral care products and switching them out for something without the detergents or artificial sweeteners that can really wreak havoc on our mouth’s ecosystem.”
It’s also important to remember that oral health treatments are not universal. This is why Dr. Poole emphasizes finding a dentist who understands women have different oral health needs than men and provides shame-free advice and treatments. “I catered my office to focus around the needs of women … because I’m a woman, a mother, a dentist, and a business owner. And, I’m really passionate about making sure that I’m not giving one-size-fits-all dentistry to everybody,” says Dr. Poole.
Spring is the perfect time to schedule your next dental appointment — May is Women’s Health Month! To celebrate, Sweet Truth Dental is offering free prenatal oral health consultations all month. Plus, on Mother’s Day, they’re hosting a special event focusing on women’s oral health. To schedule your appointment, visit sweettruthdental.com or call (615) 600-4830.
Sweet Truth Dental is located at 5055 Maryland Way, Ste. 202, Brentwood, TN 37027.
This article is sponsored by Sweet Truth Dental. All photography by Leila Grossman.