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PCOS and its intricate connection with women's oral health

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is known to trigger chronic low-grade inflammation throughout the body including gums, which can bring about a range of oral health issues

Women with PCOS are at a higher risk of experiencing oral health issues such as gingivitis, periodontitis, dry mouth and oral candidiasis,
Women with PCOS are at a higher risk of experiencing oral health issues such as gingivitis, periodontitis, dry mouth and oral candidiasis, (Pexels/Anna Shvets)

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and oral health seem like worlds apart, right? One deals with reproductive hormones, and the other with brushing and flossing. But what if there was a hidden connection between these two seemingly disparate issues? While it may seem surprising what is true is that the two are intricately connected. 

Also read: Why you should be serious about getting regular dental check-ups

Emerging research paints a fascinating picture of a two-way street where PCOS can impact oral health and vice versa. Mumbai-based Dr. Karishma Vijan, dental surgeon, author, researcher and philanthropist, explains the surprising link and shares practical tips to maintain optimal oral health and manage PCOS symptoms.

What is the connection?
PCOS is a hormonal imbalance that affects 54% of women of childbearing age. While its primary symptoms involve irregular periods, excess hair growth and weight management struggles, evidence suggests a two-way relationship between PCOS and oral health. Dr. Vijan says, “Recent studies have shown women with PCOS have a 28% higher risk of periodontal disease (inflammation of tooth supporting gums and bone), while women with periodontal disease have a 46% higher risk of developing PCOS. Additionally, some studies have found a higher prevalence of periodontitis in newly diagnosed PCOS patients. Inflammation is a crucial factor for both conditions.”

PCOS’ impact on oral health
PCOS can trigger chronic low-grade inflammation throughout the body, including your gums. This creates a welcome environment for plaque and bacteria, increasing the risk of gingivitis and periodontitis. “Women suffering from PCOS have increased pro-inflammatory cytokine levels and this inflammation affects their oral health,” elaborates Dr. Vijan. PCOS can also disrupt salivary gland function, leading to dry mouth. Saliva is crucial in washing away food debris and preventing bacterial growth. Without its protective flow, your mouth becomes vulnerable to cavities and other oral health problems. 

How oral health impacts PCOS
Oral health isn't just a passive participant in this tango. It can also influence the course of PCOS, taking the lead in its own way. Poor oral health, particularly gum disease, can exacerbate insulin resistance, a major symptom of PCOS. This further worsens other issues like irregular periods and weight management challenges. Additionally, chronic inflammation in the mouth can contribute to systemic inflammation, potentially affecting PCOS management and hindering treatment effectiveness.

Dr. Vijan explains, “Women with PCOS are at a higher risk of experiencing oral health issues such as gingivitis, periodontitis (inflammation of the tooth-supporting bone), dry mouth, oral candidiasis, and gestational diabetes mellitus. This is due to increased androgens, insulin resistance, and inflammation. So it certainly isn’t surprising that inadequate oral care can also have an impact on PCOS and vice versa.” 

Also read: Understanding the causes and cures of PCOS

Tips to maintain optimal oral health and manage PCOS
The fight between PCOS and oral health doesn’t have to be a brutal brawl. You can turn it into a synchronized victory dance for your overall health by working together. Dr. Vijan suggests simple tips you can practice:

- Regularly monitor PCOS and insulin resistance/diabetes.
- Maintain good oral hygiene and attend dental check-ups.
- Consider anti-inflammatory supplements under medical guidance, 
especially omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D and curcumin, to reduce androgen levels and limit the burden of inflammation-causing periodontal diseases.
- Lifestyle choices significantly affect both PCOS and oral health. As per a study by AIIMS, New Delhi, a healthy lifestyle with regular exercise and a balanced diet is crucial to manage both conditions.
- Look out for dental clinics that offer women wellness programmes that provide holistic solutions with customised coaching to integrate oral and overall health in a manner that not only reduces the side effects of PCOS but also reverses it. 

Besides these, there are a few treatment options available for periodontitis: 
1. Non-surgical deep gum cleaning: It is also commonly known as scaling and root planing. Every tooth is explicitly cleaned in areas below the gums to remove all the bacteria, plaque and tartar, dead tissue, debris and infection from the root.

2. Gum laser therapy: Laser periodontal therapy is a less invasive option for preventing periodontitis. It’s gaining popularity in dental care due to its effectiveness and is a great alternative to traditional surgical methods.

Oral health is not only about flashing your pearly whites; it's about taking control of your overall health. For women with PCOS, the connection between oral health and PCOS management is undeniable. By prioritizing oral hygiene, maintaining a healthy diet, and working closely with your dentist and healthcare provider, you can turn this two-way street into a positive path towards better health and brighter smiles. 

Shweta Dravid is a self confessed explorer who writes on travel, health, wellness, mindfulness and life truths.

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