Menopause Can Lead to Oral Health Problems

Smiling mature womanDr. Seal and our team here at the office understand menopause brings lots of changes. Most women are aware that osteoporosis becomes a significant danger after menopause, and take steps to help prevent it. However, both osteoporosis and hormonal changes increase your risk for periodontal disease and tooth loss.

Periodontitis: Gum disease, also known as periodontitis, is characterized by red, tender, swollen gums that may bleed while brushing or flossing. This is due to irritation caused by bacteria trapped between teeth and gums. If left untreated, this irritation eventually begins to wear away gum and bone tissue. Since bone loss occurs right around the base of teeth, they are more prone to falling out. Regular dental cleanings get rid of bacteria normal brushing doesn’t. Declining estrogen levels are implicated both in osteoporosis and periodontitis.

Burning Tongue: Burning mouth syndrome is another common menopausal complaint. Dry mouth, taste distortion or metallic taste, and persistent pain are all symptoms of burning mouth. Estrogen affects the chemical composition of saliva as well as the volume of saliva produced. Since saliva helps re-harden enamel and neutralize acid, decreased saliva increases the risk of gum disease and tooth decay. Chewing sugarless gum or using a saliva substitute can help ameliorate dry mouth.

Osteoporosis: Loss of bone density, or osteoporosis, is a major concern for most menopausal women. Brittle bones are more likely to break, which is why falling is so worrisome for older adults. Hormone replacement therapy, specifically estrogen supplements, seems to have a protective effect against osteoporosis and gum disease. Talk to your doctor about hormone replacement, to see if it is right for you. You should increase your intake of calcium-rich foods whether or not you are taking hormones. Choose from dairy products, fortified breads and cereals, dark leafy greens like broccoli and spinach, almonds, sardines, and salmon. Some varieties of orange juice and soymilk are also fortified with calcium.

What if I Lose a Tooth?

Lost teeth can be replaced by bridges or dental implants. However, if your jawbone has lost significant mass or density, implant failure is more likely. The best way to keep your teeth healthy and strong is regular brushing, flossing, and use of mouthwash. You should also schedule regular cleanings with Dr. Seal to catch any minor dental problems before they become major headaches. If you haven’t seen us lately, call our North Dallas office at (214) 361-0883 to schedule your next appointment.