By: Guest Author
Published: November 14, 2023
Written by Ainsley Lawrence- Guest Contributor
Menopause is a monumental change in a woman’s body. Hormones are changing at a rate commensurate with puberty and it can affect all sorts of things. Many of us have heard hot flashes and mood swings associated with menopause, but there is also a boatload of unexpected changes that many women aren’t aware of and aren’t necessarily prepared for.
Perhaps one of the least well-known side effects of going through menopause is an increased vulnerability to dental health issues such as gum recession/disease, tooth decay, or numerous other dental health issues. The links between hormonal changes associated with menopause and dental health are complex and it can be hard to understand exactly what spurs the development of some of these concerns. Especially amongst women that have had excellent dental health throughout their lives thus far.
Although there is certainly greater susceptibility to these dental health issues, that doesn’t necessarily mean that all hope is lost and your smile is toast. Rather, there are numerous steps that women can take to help bolster and protect their dental health no matter what bodily changes are thrown at them. Understanding what to expect and when to see a dentist regarding concerns is a key first step in addressing dental health during menopause.
Why Does Menopause Impact Oral Health?
The main spur that causes just about everything associated with menopause is changing hormone levels. Fluctuations in hormone levels can wreck all sorts of havoc on your mouth, primarily lowering the body’s immune defenses which can make it harder to fight off minor infections or maintain a healthy balance between beneficial and harmful bacteria. A dramatic decrease in estrogen levels in the body can also contribute to other dental issues such as dry mouth and a loss of bone density throughout the body.
Some research has indicated that dental and mouth symptoms are actually some of the most common documented effects in women with menopause, in nearly 60% of studied cases. Additionally, nearly 25% of patients experience issues with dry mouth, and close to 15% reported symptoms of burning mouth syndrome. However, the latter was most commonly reported in post-menopausal women.
Other common mouth and dental symptoms to watch out for include things like:
● Decreased enamel protection from acids and bacteria;
● Higher likelihood of mouth sores, fungal infections, or a “bad taste in the mouth”;
● Osteoporosis or loss of bone mineral density in the jaw bone and teeth;
● Burning sensation in the gums, tongue, lips, or roof of the mouth;
● Receding, inflammatory, or extremely sensitive gums ;
● Increased risk of gum disease;
● Increased risk of cavities;
● Extreme sensitivity to hot or cold foods.
Small Lifestyle Changes
Fortunately, many steps can be taken to help reduce the likelihood of severe dental health issues associated with menopause. Arguably one of the biggest has to do with lifestyle and the things we are eating and drinking. Menopause can cause a lot of changes such as a significant decrease in metabolism that forces women to rethink their consumption to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Dental health is one more reason to consider incorporating positive changes.
For instance, foods that are high in sugars, acids, or carbohydrates can be especially hard on tooth enamel and lead to a higher risk of tooth decay. Lower saliva production can contribute to reduced enamel protection during menopause, indicating that these types of foods and drinks can suddenly be at higher risk. Alternatively, fibrous fruits and veggies including apples, celery, and carrots contain beneficial vitamins and minerals AND can increase saliva production.
Changing a diet can be a challenging task, especially when it entails a change in shopping habits or cooking style. Some people may even think that opting for healthier foods can be costly. However, with some forethought, shopping for everyday necessities that can boost your health can be cheaper than the alternative. Some of the best ways to stick to new food goals and save money doing so include making a list that you can stick to while in the store, tracking sales and coupons, and looking up healthy recipes that you are excited to try out.
Creating a Dental Health Checklist
The other major way to help reduce the impacts of menopause on your dental health is to strive to maintain a healthy dental routine. This involves not only making and keeping regular dental appointments, but also taking into account the things you can do at home to maintain dental health. Some of the most important things you can do at home include things like:
● Brush your teeth at least twice per day, typically morning and night, using a fluoride toothpaste.
● Rinse your toothbrush with hot water after brushing to help cut back on bacteria buildup.
● Incorporate regular flossing into your teeth-brushing routine.
● Replace your toothbrush every 3-4 months, or when the bristles start to look frayed.
● Stick to a healthy diet that limits sugary food and drink intake.
● Avoid smoking and other tobacco products that can greatly impact long-term dental health outcomes.
Regular dental checkups that take place about twice per year can help detect any issues early, before they develop into major concerns. Likewise, cleanings during the same visits can help reduce plaque and other harmful material buildup. You may choose to see a dentist sooner if you suddenly begin experiencing some of the more serious symptoms of menopause in dental health such as dry mouth, extreme sensitivity, or receding gums as dental expertise can help alleviate some of the pain and discomfort you’re experiencing.
Dental health is an important factor in a healthy lifestyle. Many women may not initially realize the major role that menopause can play in impacting the health of our teeth, gums, and mouth. A healthy diet, regular at-home dental routine, and scheduled visits with a dentist can help limit these impacts and keep you smiling and healthy long into the future.
Contributing author: Ainsley Lawrence is a freelance writer that lives in the Northwest region of the United States. She has a particular interest in covering topics related to good health, balanced life, and better living through technology. When not writing, her free time is spent reading and researching to learn more about her cultural and environmental surroundings. You can follow her on Twitter @AinsleyLawrenc3
The views expressed herein this article, written by a guest contributor, do not necessarily represent those of the Red Hot Mamas organization. The content is for informational purposes and should not substitute the advice of your doctor.