Ten Oral Health Facts You Need to Know By Dr. Michele Couri, MD, FACOG, ABIHM

  1. The connection between a woman’s oral and systemic health is undisputed, and poor oral health can negatively affect her health across her lifespan.
  2. It is well documented that poor oral health increases our risk of cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, and diabetes.
  3. During puberty, increasing levels of estrogen and progesterone change the oral environment by increasing levels of bacteria,  predisposing adolescent girls to gingivitis and other periodontal problems.  A 2015 study (2) showed that 50% of adolescents suffer from various degrees of tooth decay. 
  4. Eating disorders, which affect between 5.5 and 17.9% of young women, increase the risk of oral-related diseases such as mouth sores, inflammation of the lips (cheilitis), and dental erosions.  
  5. Periodontal disease has been found in approximately 40% of pregnant women, and periodontitis (inflammation/disease of the gums) has been linked to increased rates of preterm labor, premature birth, and preeclampsia.  Dental care during pregnancy is safe, and women who are contemplating pregnancy or who are pregnant and have not seen a dentist in the previous 6-12 months should be seen for routine preventive dental care.
  6. Oral health during pregnancy is crucial because there is evidence of vertical transmission of strep bacteria from mother to child.  This bacteria, called Streptococcus mutans, frequently causes dental cavities, can live in infants’ mouths, and increases their risk of cavities when their teeth erupt.  Infants who are most at risk are those whose mothers had high rates of dental cavities.  
  7. The oral tissues contain estrogen receptors, and declining estrogen levels during menopause predispose women to higher rates of periodontal disease.  Dry mouth, “burning mouth syndrome,” and periodontal bone loss are all found more commonly during menopause due to declining estrogen levels.
  8. Several studies have shown that estrogen replacement during menopause (HRT) can prevent or reduce the risk of mandibular bone loss and decrease periodontal disease severity in menopausal women.
  9. Improving periodontal health improves glucose control in diabetics.  Healthier periodontal tissue can reduce hemoglobin A1c by 10-20%.
  10. Lifestyle factors such as poor diet, smoking, and heavy alcohol use all negatively affect our oral health – another reason to eat healthy, avoid smoking and limit alcohol intake.  


In summary, oral health is a powerful factor in our overall health.  Have regular dental checkups, practice good dental hygiene, brush, and floss faithfully, and consider using an oral irrigator or water pick to further reduce plaque burden.  If you haven’t seen your dentist recently, now is a great time to update your dental exam and routine teeth cleaning.  Access to dental care is important for everyone, and the following link provides a list of dental clinics locally available to those with limited financial ability:


To your oral health,

Dr. Couri


References Used:

  1. Kessler, J.  A Literature Review on Women’s Oral Health Across the Lifespan.  Nursing for Women’s Health.  Volume 21, Issue 2, April-May 2017, pages 108-121.
  2. J. Hummel, K.E. Phillips, B. Holt, C. Hayes.  Oral health: An essential component of primary care.  Qualis Health, Seattle, WA (2015).
  3. Silen, Y.  Worldwide Prevalence of DSM-5 Eating Disorders Among Young People.  Curr Opin Psychiatry.  2022 Nov 1;35(6):362-371.
  4. Illinois Department of Public Health website:


DISCLAIMER: The information provided on this website is intended for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The information provided is current as of the date of publication or last review, but medical knowledge is constantly evolving, and the information may become outdated over time.