If you are reading this blog, you probably know already, that hot flashes and night sweats are not the only changes associated with menopause. Dental problems, associated with menopause, are not wide known to the general public, but nevertheless, they are not to be disregarded due to the substantial physical and emotional discomfort.
Research has long shown that women are at increased risk for oral health problems because of physiological changes associated with hormonal fluctuations that occur from puberty through menopause. In fact, a 2009 literature review by researchers from the Cleveland Clinic and Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine concluded that postmenopausal women are even more susceptible to periodontal disease and related conditions.
Burning mouth symptom, we discussed earlier, is just one of the dental issues, menopausal women may have to deal.
Some of the other common dental problems women experience during menopause include:
* Receding gums – Fluctuations in hormone levels can make gums more sensitive and more vulnerable to recession, which in turn leaves those areas more susceptible to decay.
* Bone loss – As estrogen levels decrease, bones become weaker and brittle. This isn’t limited to your legs and arms. Women going through menopause can also experience bone loss in the jaw, which can affect how removable prosthodontics fit. In fact, a 2006 American Dental Association report noted that postmenopausal osteoporotic women may require new dentures more often after age 50 than women without osteoporosis.
* Tooth loss – The rate of whole-body bone loss in postmenopausal women is a predictor for tooth loss. A 1996 study on the relationship between tooth loss and bone loss found that “for every 1% per year decrease in whole-body bone mineral density, the risk of tooth loss increases more than four times.” Other studies have supported the hypothesis that systemic bone loss may contribute to tooth loss in healthy individuals, and women with low bone mineral density tend to have fewer teeth compared to controls.
Tender, bleeding gums, called gingivitis or periodontitis, can result from lower estrogen production. There may also be loss of tissue, leading to receding gums.
During menopause, periodontal symptoms can differ for each woman. Some women may experience heightened gum sensitivity, causing pain with temperature, irritation or for no apparent reason at all. Other women may experience burning sensations, along with irritation. Women can also experience recurrent gum infections due to menopause, which can endanger tooth health. Bleeding is another sign of gum conditions or disease that may onset with menopause.
Gingivostomatitis is generally seen in children, where there is swelling and lesions in the mouth; often, these are identical to canker sores. However, there is a difference in that, this condition is due to infection by a virus or bacteria. Some menopausal women may develop this condition in which their gums appear shiny and dry and are prone to quick bleeding; this is called as menopausal gingivostomatitis.
Gum appearance can be an indicator of menopause-related gum problems. Changes in gum color also may occur, causing the gums to look either paler or redder than normal. Similarly, gums may appear dull with an overly matte finish to them, or excessively shiny, due to hormonal changes.
Some of the standard gum problems symptoms caused by menopause:
* Sensitive gums
* Swollen gums
* Pale or red gums
* Bleeding gums
* Painful gums
* Receding gums
* Dull gums
* Shiny gums
* Gum infections
The two primary causes of gum problems are poor oral hygiene and the lower levels of estrogen caused by menopause. Estrogen has been shown to have an effect on the tissues of the gums themselves. Menopause hormonal imbalances can even affect other aspects of oral health, such as health conditions in the salivary glands and the jawbone.
Oral bone loss
In menopause, estrogen levels decline rapidly, which can lead to systemic bone loss. The rate of bone loss in postmenopausal women predicts tooth loss—for every 1%-per-year decrease in whole-body bone mineral density, the risk of tooth loss increases more than four times. In fact, one of the researchers found that women with severe osteoporosis were three times more likely than healthy, age-matched controls to be edentulous (i.e., to have fewer teeth).
A research study has been posted in the journal Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology which suggests that just over one in four women who are past menopause are at a severe risk of tooth loss. The study surveyed just over one thousand post-menopausal women and found that two hundred and ninety three of them suffered a tooth loss over a five year period.
Other studies from the past have suggested that this incidence of tooth loss may be linked to bone loss from osteoporosis and estrogen deficiencies. It is thought that this is the case because such a high number of women experience post menopausal tooth loss and yet still maintain better oral health than men their same age.
Oral health hygiene
Although the oral symptoms of menopause seem scary, the solution is simple: menopausal and postmenopausal women are strongly encouraged to maintain good dental hygiene.
Good oral hygiene, including twice-daily brushing and flossing, can go a long way toward helping gums remain healthy. Scientists suggest that post menopausal women should brush twice daily as they normally would, but make sure they also are using fluoridated toothpaste. It is also important for women to clean deep in between teeth with regular flossing and an interdental tooth brush. Good eating habits as well as avoiding sugary drinks and foods which can really fuel the bacteria that cause plaque and speed up the process of tooth decay and loss.
Regular dental check-ups every six months also are vital to gum health. In some cases, deep cleanings, mouth guards, gum stimulation, antibiotics or even oral surgery such as gum grafting may be necessary in order to resolve periodontal issues that arise during menopause. Having teeth cleaned every six months can surely reduce inflammation and risks of gingivitis.
Getting regular dental care during menopause is vital. Be sure to inform dental health professionals of noted changes to gums, teeth, and surrounding tissue. Women should inform the dentist of medication regimes to avoid the effects of Bisphosphonates. Women who fear the dentist should bring headphones to the office during treatment. Another technique for conquering dental fear includes tensing the muscles on the tops of the legs, lifting the feet of the chair, holding the posture as long as possible. This simple technique is successful in allaying common dental office fears.
Hormonal imbalances are the source of gum and dental disorders during menopause. Attention to oral care and regular treatment can help manage gum problems. Getting to the root issue of hormone imbalances can help women to avoid the risk of gum problems. Herbal supplements that natural, risk-free and safe, reverse gum problems as well as manage a variety of other hormone related imbalances during menopause. Managing hormone fluctuations at their source also helps to normalize this difficult, transitional period.
Scientists also recommend enhancing the diet with useful nutrients, such calcium and vitamin D to prevent more efficiently the bone erosion in the jaw.
Sources and Additional Information: