Menopausal women often complain about hot flashes, night sweats, and sleep problems. Problems with the teeth and gums are also common in women who are going through menopause. In fact, menopause can raise the risk of developing periodontal disease and tooth loss. Here are some ways menopause can heighten your risk for periodontal disease and what you can do about them.
Low Estrogen Production
During menopause, estrogen levels sharply decline. In women, estrogen helps protect gum tissue and lowers the risk for gingivitis and cavities. Consistently low estrogen levels can cause bleeding gums, inflammation, gum pain, and soft tissue damage. Low estrogen can also raise your risk for frequent gum infections which can lead to periodontal disease.
Severe periodontal disease can destroy your jawbone and the underlying bones that help support your teeth. When this happens, your teeth may loosen, and if not treated promptly, tooth loss may occur.
Hormone replacement therapy during menopause can restore declining estrogen levels, however, it is not recommended for women who have had ovarian, uterine, breast, or endometrial cancer because estrogen may fuel these cancers. If you have signs of gum disease, see your dentist as soon as possible. If your examination reveals signs of periodontal disease, your dentist may recommend that you make an appointment with a periodontist for additional evaluation and necessary treatment.
Impaired Salivary Flow
Menopause can impair optimal salivary flow which can result in dry mouth. Oral bacteria are washed away by saliva, however, when your salivary glands are unable to make enough saliva to rinse away bacteria, infection-causing microorganisms will quickly multiply inside your mouth.
This can raise your risk for both dental decay and gum disease. If you suffer from dry mouth, avoid using alcohol-based mouthwashes because they can further dry out your oral tissues. Instead, talk to your dentist about recommending a mild lubricating oral rinse that will keep your oral tissues hydrated and restore oral moisture.
Other interventions that help prevent a dry mouth include drinking plenty of water, chewing sugarless gum, and dissolving sugar-free hard candies in your mouth. Smoking and drinking alcohol can also cause dry mouth, as can certain medications such as antihistamines, diuretics, blood pressure medications, and antianxiety drugs.
If you are in menopause, see your dentist on a regular basis. He or she will monitor your oral status very closely, and at the first sign of periodontal disease, will recommend an effective treatment plan to promote healing.