Leading up to your period, you expect to see and deal with blood when you go to the bathroom — that's just a fact of life. But you might be surprised if your gums start bleeding, or bleed more, during your period too. Creepy as it seems, there is a logical explanation for why your mouth bleeds more around your period: Estrogen.
"Estrogen is a vasodilator, meaning your blood vessels are more open and you have more blood flow," explains Mahvish Ahmed, DDS, a dentist at Smile Design Manhattan. Specifically, Dr. Ahmed adds, you'll have more blood flow to your extremities or the "ends" of your body, including your mouth. And in the weeks and days leading up to your period, your estrogen levels are high, she says. "So yes, in theory, you do have more blood available," and you may notice that you're bleeding more than usual when you brush or floss, she says.
Coincidently, when you're expecting and not getting your period, you're likely to experience oral changes too, Dr. Ahmed explains. When you're pregnant, there's more progesterone in your body, which can increase the amount of plaque on your teeth. "[That's why] we always make sure you have an extra cleaning during your pregnancy, because you're more susceptible to gum disease," she says. You may also notice that your gums are swollen or bleed more easily when you're pregnant, again because of the hormonal fluctuation.
Hormones can also affect how you respond to stress, which is why some people notice they get more canker sores and cold sores around their period too, Dr. Ahmed says. "[Hormones] change your mucosal lining a little bit in your mouth, and your mouth doesn't produce as much saliva," which could contribute to canker sores on the inside of your mouth, she adds. If you are prone to canker sores, you might want to use a good mouthwash (like one with hydrogen peroxide in it) around your period to help with inflammation and prevent sores from popping up, she says.
These mouth issues can be annoying, but just because your mouth gets out of whack during your cycle doesn't mean that you have to plan your teeth cleanings around your period, unless you really want to, Dr. Ahmed says. "Most of the time you're more sensitive in general to pain [around your period]," she says. So, if the dentist freaks you out to begin with, then you might consider booking your cleaning appointment the week after your period, she explains.
Also keep in mind that you're not really supposed to bleed when you floss or brush your teeth, Dr. Ahmed says. When you go to the dentist for a cleaning, they usually make a note of how much you bleed, so they know what your "normal" is, she says. "If you're noting bleeding, it's also an indication that you want to maintain your oral healthcare at home," she says.
This is just another weird way that your body changes when you get your period and is usually nothing to worry about. Most of the time, if you're brushing and flossing correctly, and your mouth is bleeding extra around your period, dentists will just attribute it to normal hormonal fluctuations, Dr. Ahmed says.