Previously we’ve talked about maintaining your oral health into old age and why pregnant women need to take especially good care of their teeth. This time we’re going to talk about another change in life that has a big effect on women’s oral health: menopause. The fluctuations in hormone levels that begin in perimenopause can interfere with oral health, but it’s after menopause that women are more at risk for cavities and other dental problems. What are they?
Oral discomfort is the first and most common. This can include dry mouth, changing perceptions of taste, burning sensations, and pain. Many women complain that their gums hurt more. They develop gingivitis which can then lead to periodontitis, a condition marked by inflamed and receding gums, and the development of cavities.
A second problem is bone loss. This happens throughout the body and is why so many women experience bone fragility in their later years and are more likely to break a bone when they take a spill. In the mouth, that bone loss occurs in the jaw. This may not seem like too much of a problem, but it can affect how dentures fit. Women with osteoporosis may find that they have to have new dentures made over time as a result of this bone loss in the jaw.
Researchers believe the reason why women experience these problems after menopause is because their estrogen levels are significantly diminished. Some women find that the symptoms of menopause are unpleasant or painful and decide to take medical steps to minimize discomfort. One of these options is hormone replacement therapy. Studies have not proven that HRT does reduce periodontitis, however, so is not the answer for maintaining good oral health into old age. In order to keep your mouth healthy and your teeth in the best condition they can be, you need to follow the same advice dentists will give at any other stage in life. This includes:
- Eating a well balanced diet and minimizing the consumption of sugar and sweets
- Brushing regularly and thoroughly at least twice a day
- Flossing daily
- Visiting your dentist twice yearly and talking to him about any problems you’re having with your health and especially your oral health.
Most younger people today will not lose their teeth in the same way their grandparents and great-grandparents did, but it’s important for middle aged women to take care of their teeth consistently and pay attention to what happening to their bodies. It’s simple enough to correct gingivitis, but advanced periodontitis is another thing. That old adage is right, even about teeth: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If you are approaching menopause or are in menopause now and have questions about how it has affected your oral health, ask your dentist at your next routine checkup.