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Seeing Red: Oral Contraceptive Use Makes Gum Care All the More Important

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If you're taking birth control pills, take extra good care of your mouth. The hormones in the pills have long been known to make your gums more inflamed and more susceptible to periodontal disease, but lately that's been downplayed because modern birth control pills don't contain as much progesterone, which is a key culprit behind the response. But don't let that make you complacent. You must take extra good care of your mouth because even the lower concentrations of hormones can cause an issue—and the medications used to treat that issue can cause problems themselves.

Gum Disease, Antibiotics, and Pill Effectiveness

If gum inflammation becomes a full-blown periodontal disease, you would likely be given prescription medication, such as antibiotics, to treat the disease. But antibiotics can interfere with oral contraceptive effectiveness—this is also a commonly known interaction between the medications—leading to possible pregnancy or a possible flare-up of other health conditions that the pill helps to treat.

Unfortunately the hormones in the pill increase the inflammation response to plaque in your body, especially in your gums. The increase in swelling and bleeding can quickly become a problem if you don't do what you can to control the symptoms.

  • Brush your teeth twice a day with a soft-bristled brush. Medium- and stiff-bristled brushes can scratch your gums. Use a fluoride toothpaste.
  • Floss twice a day, and floss out bits of food that get stuck between your teeth at other times of the day, too.
  • Use an alcohol-free mouth rinse daily; switch this out occasionally with a warm saltwater rinse, but don't use the saltwater daily. While the salt itself will have a neutral pH, some of the anticaking agents can be acidic, which isn't healthy for your teeth's enamel in the long-term.
  • See your dentist twice a year for cleanings -- more often if the dentist recommends it.
  • Get your gums checked out if they appear to be redder or puffier than normal and don't return to normal as you brush, floss, and rinse.

If you have other questions about gum health, gum inflammation, and oral contraceptives, talk to your dentist. It could be that you have to go back to your doctor to discuss trying another brand of oral contraceptive pill; this sometimes helps. You can have healthy gums while on the pill—you just need to be vigilant and ensure that you're treating your gums well. For more information, talk to a  dentist like Dental Associates PC.