Menopause is a phase of life all women must go through, yet many of the symptoms are seldom discussed. In this post we want to address the impact menopause can have on women’s oral health. Around 3,000 women reach menopause every day, but the manifestations of menopause in oral health are far less widely discussed than overall symptoms. Not only does our oral health change as we age, but for women, menopause brings additional concerns. We have highlighted a few of the more popular ones below so you know what to expect.
Xerostomia (Dry Mouth)
Xerostomia, most commonly known as “dry mouth”, is a condition in which the salivary glands do not produce enough saliva to keep your mouth wet. Saliva protects teeth from decay by neutralizing bacteria’s acids, limiting bacterial growth, and washing away food particles. Saliva also improves your ability to taste and makes chewing and swallowing easier.
We have talked about dry mouth in a few of our recent blog posts, but it is a real concern, particularly as we get older and menopause can be a contributing onset factor.
The crucial thing to remember is that if left untreated, dry mouth will promote tooth decay progress, resulting in numerous cavities and pain.
Hormones, most prominently estrogen and progesterone, decrease over time as menopause progresses. This decline in hormonal levels may contribute to the occurrence of osteoporosis, a bone disease that occurs when the body loses too much bone, makes too little bone, or both. As a result, bones become less dense, weak, and brittle which makes them more prone to fractures. Women with osteoporosis have a threefold increased risk of tooth loss. Tooth loss can become inevitable as the bone resorbs in the jaw bone, especially when combined with the inflammatory disease process of periodontal disease. Osteoporosis may also lead to pain and discomfort in the TMJ. Hormone Therapy (HT) may be a good treatment option for some women to counteract or prevent these conditions, however it should be discussed with her physician.
Burning Mouth Syndrome (BMS)
Menopausal women may experience a variety of oral mucosal disorders, including burning mouth syndrome (BMS), a condition characterized by a bilateral burning sensation of the soft oral tissues and a change in taste. BMS is associated with a decrease in estrogen levels during menopause, and unfortunately, it can last for years. BMS must be diagnosed by a medical practitioner, and any other conditions must be ruled out first. Patients may also experience increased thirst and symptoms that worsen throughout the day. If you are noticing one or more of these symptoms while you are in any of the stages of menopause, it is important to discuss it with your physician and/or dentist.
These are just a few of the most common menopause-related oral health symptoms. They can occur during perimenopause, menopause, and/or post-menopause. In some women, this may begin as early as 35 years old. If you notice any changes in oral health that you can’t attribute to homecare or nutritional changes, please bring them to our attention. We may be able to help you navigate these changes to decrease the impact on your quality of life.