Does Menopause Affect Teeth and Gums?
Menopause-related estrogen decline not only raises the risk for osteoporosis, but it may also be linked to oral problems. During menopause, it is important that you see your dentist on a regular basis and maintain good oral hygiene.
If menopausal-related dental problems are treated early on, tooth loss may be prevented. Here are some ways menopause can affect your oral cavity and what you can do.
Burning Mouth Syndrome
First the good news: only about 1% of people experience a burning sensation in the mouth, known as “burning mouth syndrome”. The bad news is that the prevalence of burning mouth syndrome is significantly higher in menopausal and postmenopausal women (43%) than in premenopausal women (6%). The symptoms may vary from minor discomfort to intense pain.
Treatment can include nutritional supplements, medication, the adjustment of dentures and other oral appliances, and nerve stimulation. But the answer to the cause and proper treatment remain elusive.
Dryness of the mouth, or xerostomia, is a common symptom for menopausal women. Salivary flow rates are influenced by estrogen levels and women in menopause have lower flow rates of saliva than menstruating women.
Saliva helps your body’s ability to fight off minor infections, maintain a healthy balance of bacteria in the oral environment and prevent cavities. When saliva flow is reduced, women are more susceptible to problems such plaque formation, caries, and periodontal disease.
Gingivitis and Periodontitis
Postmenopausal women present with periodontal or gum disease more frequently and in more severe form than other women.
The primary cause is bacterial plaque, which can increase with reduced saliva flow. Regular dental care to remove bacterial plaque under the gum-line is especially important.
Women taking estrogen supplements during and after menopause are
at risk for gingivitis or periodontitis
, than women not pursuing hormone therapy. So, taking care of your mouth, visiting the dentist, and being aware of a dry mouth are keys to keeping you gum-disease free.
Oral Health and Dental Management in Menopause
Menopause is a huge change in a woman’s life and a woman’s mouth, including altered taste, burning sensations in your mouth and increased sensitivity. “They’re all related to hormones,” Dr. Boghosian says.
Still, there are two critical changes to be aware of: dry mouth and bone loss. “Saliva cleanses the teeth and rinses cavity-causing bacteria off your teeth,” Dr. 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. “If dry mouth is a problem, suck on ice chips or sugar-free candy, drink water or other caffeine-free drinks and use an over-the-counter dry mouth spray or rinse to help reduce the dryness,” Dr. Cram says. “Your dentist may also recommend prescription strength fluoride toothpaste that helps reduce the risk of tooth decay.”
What you eat can also make a difference when it comes to dry mouth. Avoid salty, spicy, sticky and sugary foods, as well as and dry foods that are hard to chew. Alcohol, tobacco and caffeine can also make dry mouth worse. At night, sleeping with a humidifier on in your room can also make a difference.
Losing bone in your jaw can lead to tooth loss. “The decreased estrogen that occurs with menopause also puts you at risk for a loss of bone density,” Dr. Boghosian says. “Signs of bone loss in your jaw can be something as simple as receding gums. 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.”
To help reduce your risk of bone loss, 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
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