How menopause affects oral health – and what to do about it
As your estrogen levels decrease during menopause, you may experience problems with your teeth and gums. In this article, we explore how menopause can affect your oral health and what you can do about it.
Dental caries or cavities and flossing failure may no longer be the only oral health concerns in women beginning to show signs of menopause. During menopause, women are more prone to periodontal disease. This disease attacks the gum and bone around the tooth, which leads to bleeding gums. If not treated at an early stage, it can result in certain types of cancers too.
Gum Problems During Menopause
When women reach menopause, having a dry mouth and swollen gums are a common complaint. In addition, the reduction of saliva is one of the main causes of tooth decay and gum disease. Women are more prone to peridontal gum disease during menopause. This disease attacks the gum and bone around the tooth, which leads to bleeding gums. If not treated at an early stage, it can result in certain types of cancers too.
Here are some of the other gum problems women face during menopause:
Gingivitis: An inflammation of the gums caused by bacteria. This pathological state is very painful and provokes the separation of the outer layers of the gums, because of which, the teeth lose their equilibrium. The pain is caused by the exposure of dental nerve endings and it appears when the patient consumes hot or cold drinks. When not treated in time, this disease can drift into periodontitis and cause permanent loss of dental parts.
Periodontitis: Periodontitis is the advanced stage of the periodontal disease. It occurs due to the increase of bacteria in the mouth leading to an inflammatory reaction. It is a disease that progresses slowly by gradually destroying the supporting tissues of the teeth, gums, and bone.
Bone loss may result into tooth loss: Bone deterioration is common during menopause. The low estrogen level in the body results in bone loss. If not diagnosed or treated early, there is a possibility of tooth loss or tooth fracture.
Receding gum line: A process in which the margin of the gum tissue surrounding the teeth is pulled back and removed. This causes the root of the tooth to be exposed.
Causes of Periodontal Disease in Menopausal Women
It is the estrogen deficiency that causes a significant loss of bone density, correlated with an increase in the rate of dental loss. This cause-and-effect relationship may be explained by the aggravation of periodontal disease.
Decreased levels of estrogen during menopause can cause the gum to shrink, opening the pockets for plaque to thrive. Due to the hormonal changes, less blood reaches the gums, thus making it difficult to maintain a healthy oral system. Certain drugs taken during menopause also contribute to poor oral health by causing the gums to bleed. The decrease or fluctuations in the level of estrogen also makes women less sensitive to sucrose which results in sweet or sugar cravings during this stage. All these lead to periodontal disease.
Prevention and Treatment
• Since the main cause of bleeding gums is the plaque, an intensifying practice of oral hygiene is the best defence and treatment plan
• Getting your teeth cleaned every four months, instead of six, can prevent bleeding of gums
• Electric toothbrushes may be more effective than conventional products
• Regular visits to a periodontist at the menopausal stage can help in the prevention and treatment of periodontal disease
• Drink plenty of water and avoid smoking. Eat foods rich in vitamins A, C and E, and calcium to strengthen your bone structure and dental tissue.
As with any disease, early diagnosis and care are the ideal solutions. Taking care of your oral health during peri-menopause will help decrease the risk of periodontal disease.
About the Author
Grace Clark works at Michael G. Long DDS, Fresno, CA and is a believer in holistic health, Grace lives by the rule that health and happiness go hand in hand. She writes on various dental topics focusing on healthy living and holistic health.