If we follow statistical data gathered from current and even prehistoric populations, it is noted that women have had more dental cavities than men have. This distinction has previously been linked to foods consumed and society changes which might have triggered off an increase of cavities among women. But a physiological reason may be at cause, more than just a behavioural observation.
Some anthropological studies have concluded that both biological and external factors are to blame. Such studies examine both, prehistoric societies and modern health records. The results attribute women’s higher rates of cavities to three main features: female hormones, saliva composition, and food cravings during pregnancy.
Female sex hormones
The most important hormones made by the ovaries are known as female sex hormones (sex steroids) and the two main ones are oestrogen and progesterone. Female hormones like oestrogen can influence considerably tooth decay development.
During puberty, oestrogen stimulates the development of female sex organs which includes breasts, uterus, etc. Oestrogen, with the help of progesterone, luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), plays a vital part in regulating a woman’s menstrual cycle. Oestrogen is also produced by the placenta throughout pregnancy, increasing its normal quantities. This female hormone is known to endorse dietary changes and cavity formation, especially when a woman is pregnant.
Women naturally produce less saliva than men. This natural substance has normal cleaning and disinfecting effects that naturally clean the mouth after a meal. When there is less saliva, the regular removal of food residue from teeth is reduced. This situation is called xerostomia or dry mouth.
During pregnancy, the chemical composition of saliva changes, which reduces its antimicrobial capacity. Therefore the possibility of getting tooth decay increases for pregnant women.
Food cravings during pregnancy
Most women will experience food cravings at some point or another during pregnancy. In fact, as many as half of all pregnant women will crave some type of cuisine. They will often crave high-energy, sweet, salty, spicy or fatty foods. This occurs especially during the third trimester of pregnancy.
These high-energy drinks are often acid. When mixed with sugar, acidic drinks (sodas, ice tea or energy drinks) quickly initiate cavities on teeth. It is therefore very recommended that a pregnant woman keeps a toothbrush very close to her chocolate bars.
- Know Your Teeth (www.knowyourteeth.com).
- NetDoctor – Female Hormones (www.netdoctor.co.uk).
- US News and World Report (www.usnews.com).
The information above should be used as a reference only. Any medical decision should not be taken before consulting a health care professional.
The masculine gender may have been more used in the article, but without prejudice, to make reading easier.
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