If you’re going through menopause, then its effects on your dental health may seem like the least of your worries. With its many uncomfortable symptoms and emotional ups and downs, menopause can wreak havoc on your physical and emotional wellbeing. One of the lesser known consequences of menopause is its contribution to dental problems.
What Does Menopause Have to Do With Dental Health?
The hormonal changes a woman goes through during menopause causes not only hot flashes and mood swings, but dry mouth as well. Dry mouth can cause dental problems due to the lack of saliva in the mouth. Everyone experiences dry mouth from time to time. For menopausal women, however, this condition is often persistent, and it sometimes sticks around during the post-menopausal period which only increases the risk to a woman’s oral health. Saliva is necessary for good oral health because it helps break down food, protects against tooth decay, and prevents bacteria build-up. When the mouth is constantly dry, however, as it often is during menopause, there is not enough saliva to perform these important functions, and the risk for tooth decay and periodontal disease increases significantly.
Do You Have Dry Mouth?
Believe it or not, sometimes dry mouth can go completely unnoticed. Other times, people get so used to it that they no longer realize it’s there. This is particularly true of menopausal women who are going through so many other changes and experiencing a myriad of symptoms that dry mouth hardly seems like a concern. Obviously, being unaware of the problem or failing to take any action to resolve it can worsen the effects of the condition. Therefore, if you have one or more of the symptoms of dry mouth such as chapped lips, difficulty swallowing, bad breath, sore throat, or a sticky feeling in the mouth, for instance, make an appointment with your dentist to get a cleaning and a check-up. During the appointment, you can also talk about ways to reduce dry mouth and the potential negative effects it can have on your oral health.
What’s A Girl To Do?
Although there is nothing we can do to stop the hormonal changes that cause dry mouth during menopause, there are ways to increase the amount of saliva in the mouth, thereby decreasing the risk for tooth decay and bone loss. In addition to talking with the dentist and taking preventative measures to protect your teeth, you may also try improving dry mouth on your own by:
- Chewing gum (the sugarless variety, of course!)
- Staying hydrated, preferably with water
- Avoiding things that promote dry mouth such as cigarettes, caffeine, and alcoholic beverages
- Putting a humidifier in your bedroom and turning it on while you sleep
- Using a special mouthwash created to treat dry mouth
If none of these at-home treatments work for you, talk to your dentist. She may be able to prescribe a saliva substitute that will help reduce the uncomfortable symptoms of dry mouth while protecting your teeth from decay.
Other Dental Risks Associated With Menopause
Dry mouth is not the only symptom of menopause that poses a threat to your dental health. Periodontal disease becomes a long-term risk for post-menopausal women due to changes in estrogen levels. This hormone imbalance causes inflammation and bone loss, conditions that can directly contribute to the incidence of periodontal disease. This same imbalance also heightens the risk of osteoporosis. To protect your dental health, it’s best to contact your dentist as soon as you learn that you are experiencing menopause. Early diagnosis and treatment of periodontal disease can prevent tooth fractures, loose teeth, and tooth loss.
Think you may be experiencing some of the negative dental effects associated with dry mouth, menopause, or both? Call our office to schedule an appointment today. We can help you determine whether there is a problem and discover how to treat it safely and effectively.
Call (604) 736-7373
#202-2732 West Broadway, Vancouver, BC