Women experience many changes during menopause, some of which can show up in the mouth. This makes menopause a particularly important time for a woman to focus on dental health and hygiene.
The connection between menopause and oral health is complex. Teeth, gums and bones are extremely susceptible to the hormonal changes taking place during this time of life. Some of these changes are subtle, so your dentist may be the first to notice. Here are some potential changes both you and Dr. Morrison should keep an eye on:
Loss of bone in the oral cavity
Many women experience a loss of bone tissue in the oral cavity. The reason is unclear, but
. A past history with gingivitis and periodontal disease is another reason often considered relevant. In order to avoid losing teeth as you age, you'll want to maintain regular visits with your dentist so that you catch these problems early.
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 if the cause is believed to be nerve-related. 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.
Can HRT Improve Oral Health for Women in Menopause?
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) has helped women manage an array of menopause-related issues, including reducing hot flashes and improving heart health. Can we add improving oral health to that list? It's very likely.
HRT is proven to be effective in preventing bone loss - which is linked to tooth loss. And because
the mouth contains estrogen receptors, HRT has been shown in some studies to prevent the likelihood or worsening of oral health issues such as burning mouth syndrome, dry mouth, dental caries and periodontal disease. In studies comparing women on HRT with those who are not, women on HRT had better dental outcomes including lower rates of periodontal disease,
accelerated healing of periodontal disease,
fewer teeth lost, fewer oral symptoms such as dry or painful mouth, and lower dental costs than those who did not use HRT.
What You Can Do
All women, but especially women in menopause, should make good dental care a part of their healthy lifestyles.
Let our staff know of any changes in your health - including symptoms of menopause, whether you are receiving HRT and if you have been diagnosed with osteoporosis. Also, alert us to any new symptoms you may have such as dry or painful mouth, or bleeding gums.
Because menopausal and postmenopausal women present with periodontal disease more frequently and in more severe form, it is also very important for you to stay on track with your
to identify and begin to treat gum disease at its earliest possible stage.
The dips in progesterone and estrogen that accompany menopause affect every woman differently. And for those who pursue hormone therapy, perhaps less still. Staying on top of symptoms and keeping your communication lines open with your doctor and dentist will help keep you ahead of the curve when it comes to your oral health.
If you have questions don't hesitate to talk with Dr. Morrison or your Dental Hygienist. Is it time for your dental cleaning and exam?
us so we can get you scheduled!
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