Statistically, data shows that women have had more dental cavities than men in both prehistoric and modern times. Previously, this had been correlated to differences in foods consumed and social contributions, which might have caused an increase of cavities among women. However, there might be a physiological reason causing this instead of just behavioral factors.
Our Bodies Are Physiologically Different
Some anthropologists, as well as studies, have reviewed both modern and prehistoric health records and found that both biological (Physiologic) and external factors are to blame. Their studies have shown that higher rates of dental decay can be the result of three significant reasons: saliva composition, female hormones, and food cravings during pregnancy.
Women produce less saliva than men. Saliva has a cleansing and disinfection effect in the mouth after a meal. When there is less saliva, the regular removal of food residue from the teeth is reduced. Severe dry mouth is also referred to as xerostomia. This of course can also be caused by some medications also.
During pregnancy, the chemical composition of saliva changes, which reduces its antimicrobial capacity. Therefore the possibility of getting tooth decay increases for pregnant women.
Female sex hormones
Estrogen and Progesterone are the two main female sex hormones produced by the ovaries in the female body. Female hormones like estrogen can have substantial influence on tooth decay rates. During puberty, estrogen stimulates the development of female sex organs (breasts, the uterus, etc) and with the help of progesterone, LH (luteinizing hormone) and FSH (follicle stimulating hormone), has an important role in regulating a woman's menstrual cycle. During pregnancy, estrogen is also produced by the placenta, which increases its level above normal. Estrogen is known to cause dietary changes and cavity formation during pregnancy.
Food cravings during pregnancy
Most women will experience food cravings at some point during pregnancy. 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.
High-energy drinks are often acidic and loaded with sugar. Sugary, acidic drinks (sodas, ice tea or energy drinks) quickly initiate cavities on teeth. I tend to recommend that a pregnant woman keep a toothbrush very close to her chocolate bars.
Know Your Teeth (www.knowyourteeth.com).
NetDoctor - Female Hormones US News and World Report (www.usnews.com).
Last update: 22nd of February 2009. (www.netdoctor.co.uk).