Your weight. Your mood. And, yes, your dental health. One thing that can make all these aspects of your health go haywire - hormones.


You may be surprised to learn that hormone surges make you more vulnerable to gum disease, says the N.C. Dental Society, based in Cary, and the American Dental Association, which is comprised of more than 160,000 dentists.


Here's why it happens: More female hormones (estrogen and progesterone) bring more blood flow to your gums, which causes them to become sensitive and overreact to anything that irritates them.


"Women are more sensitive to the presence of plaque and bacteria around the gums when the hormone levels are high," explains Dr. Sally Cram, an ADA dentist.


"This can cause your gums to become inflamed, swell and bleed. If left untreated, ongoing inflammation in the gums can also lead to bone loss around the teeth and eventual tooth loss."


Your hormones are a fact of life, but gum disease is preventable and reversible in its early stages.


What's a woman to do? Start by paying extra attention and taking good care of your mouth during these five times in your life.


Raging hormones can leave a teenage girl's gums red, swollen and bleeding. (In some cases, the overreaction to plaque may cause gums to actually grow bigger.) Some teenage girls also may find themselves developing canker sores, which usually heal on their own.


The best treatment? Prevention.


"Brush twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste, floss once a day and see your dentist regularly," Cram says.


"Removing plaque and bacteria thoroughly every day can reduce the inflammation, discomfort and bleeding."


Your period
You may not notice any change in your mouth in the days before menstruation. (If fact, most women don't). But if you have swollen gums, bleeding gums, canker sores or swollen salivary glands, hormones may be to blame.


These symptoms should subside after your period ends – but if they don't, then the increased bleeding is signaling something else. Talk to your dentist if you have questions about how your cycle and the health of your gums are related.


Stay on top of your daily dental health routine, and if you find you have more sensitivity than usual before or during your period, schedule cleanings for about a week after it ends.


Birth control pills
Inflammation may have been a side effect for women taking birth control in the past, but now there's good news for your gums. The levels of estrogen and progesterone in today's prescriptions are too low to cause any issues with your gums.


Still, it's important to make sure your health history forms at the dentist are up to date.


Here's why:

The dentist may need to write a prescription for you, and some medications can make your birth control less effective.


If you're having a tooth removed, you may be at risk for a painful complication called dry socket.


During pregnancy, your body is in hormonal hyperdrive. Some women develop pregnancy gingivitis - a mild form of gum disease that causes gums to be red, tender and sore. It's most common between the second and eighth months of pregnancy, and you can help keep it under control through good daily habits.


"Stay on top of your brushing and flossing and be meticulous about the care of your entire body," says Dr. Alice Boghosian, an ADA dentist.


Visiting your dentist during pregnancy is incredibly important - and it's safe. In fact, she may recommend more frequent cleanings during your second trimester and early third trimester to help control gingivitis.


Menopause is a huge change in a woman's life, and it may include altered taste, burning sensations in the mouth and increased sensitivity.


Be especially aware of these two critical problems: dry mouth and bone loss.


"Saliva cleanses the teeth and rinses cavity-causing bacteria off your teeth," Boghosian says. "When you have dry mouth, your saliva flow decreases and you're more at risk for cavities."


Talk to your dentist if your mouth is feeling dry.


"Suck on ice chips or sugar-free candy, drink water or other caffeine-free drinks, and use an over-the-counter spray or rinse to help reduce the dryness," Cram says.


"Your dentist may also recommend prescription-strength fluoride toothpaste that helps reduce the risk of tooth decay."


Sleeping with a humidifier on in your room can make dry mouth better while alcohol, tobacco and caffeine can make it worse.


Meanwhile, losing bone in your jaw can lead to tooth loss.


To help reduce that risk, work with your dentist or physician to make sure you're getting the right amount of calcium and vitamin D, don't smoke and avoid excessive alcohol consumption.


"Signs of bone loss in your jaw can be something as simple as receding gums," Boghosian says.


"When your gums recede, more of your tooth is exposed and that puts more of your tooth at risk for decay. And if your mouth is dry, that's a double whammy."