At about age 50, women begin to experience changes in their bodies as they approach menopause. Estrogen levels start to fluctuate, which causes symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, weight gain, and mood swings.
But how does menopause change your oral care routine? Keep reading to learn how these hormonal changes can affect your mouth and oral health. We'll give you insights on what you can do to enhance your smile and stay fresh during this time.
What Is Menopause?
Menopause is the permanent cessation of menstruation and ovulation. Once you have missed your period for 12 consecutive months, you are in menopause. It is a natural biological process that signals the end of a woman's reproductive years.
There are three stages of menopause: perimenopause, menopause, and postmenopause. Perimenopause is the stage before menopause when a woman's ovaries begin to produce less estrogen. This phase can last anywhere from a few months to several years. During perimenopause, women may experience some of the more common menopausal symptoms. These symptoms include hot flashes and night sweats.
Menopause is the second stage. It causes menstrual periods to stop for 12 consecutive months. At this point, a woman's ovaries no longer produce eggs, and her estrogen levels decrease.
Postmenopause is the final stage of menopause. It begins after a woman goes for 12 consecutive months without a period. In postmenopause, estrogen levels continue to decline at a much slower rate than during menopause.
How Menopause Affects Oral Health
During menopause, declining estrogen levels can cause several changes in your mouth. These changes include:
Xerostomia (Dry Mouth)
Dry mouth, also known as xerostomia, occurs when there is not enough saliva in the mouth to keep it moist. This can lead to an increased risk of tooth decay and gum disease. It also causes difficulty in speaking, swallowing, and tasting.
Xerostomia is one of the most common oral complications associated with menopause. It affects up to 70% of postmenopausal women. The exact cause of xerostomia is unknown. It is thought to be due to a decline in estrogen levels during menopause. Treatment for xerostomia may include:
- Using artificial saliva products
- Drinking plenty of fluids
- Avoiding tobacco and alcohol
With proper treatment, most women can manage their symptoms and live healthy, active lives.
Burning Mouth Syndrome
Burning mouth syndrome is characterized by a burning sensation in the tongue or roof of the mouth for no obvious reason. The cause of burning mouth syndrome is unknown. It is thought to be related to nerve damage or hormonal changes during menopause.
This syndrome can be a debilitating condition that affects a person's quality of life. There are many treatment options available, but there is no cure. Treatment options include:
- Oral medications
- Topical creams
- Professional counseling
Burning mouth syndrome is a complex condition that requires a comprehensive treatment plan. If you are suffering from burning mouth syndrome, consult your doctor to discuss treatment options.
Osteoporosis is a condition in which bones become fragile and break due to loss of bone density. This can put you at risk for tooth loss if not managed. There are many things you can do to help prevent osteoporosis or at least to slow down its progression.
Start by getting enough calcium and vitamin D in your diet. These nutrients are essential for healthy bones.
Get plenty of exercise. Exercise helps to maintain strong bones and can also help to improve balance, which can reduce the risk of falls.
Quit smoking. Smoking is a major risk factor for osteoporosis, so kicking the habit is one of the best things you can do for your bones.
If you have osteoporosis or are at risk for the condition, talk to your dentist. They will discuss ways to protect your teeth and prevent tooth loss.
A change in taste is another common side effect of menopause. This can be due to dry mouth or to other changes in hormone levels that affect taste buds or smell receptors. Some women find that certain foods they used to enjoy now taste different.
This change in taste can be a nuisance, but it is not a cause for concern. If you are experiencing a change in taste, try experimenting with different spices and flavors to find a combination that you enjoy. Avoid strong-tasting or pungent foods, as they can be difficult to tolerate. With a little trial and error, you should find an enjoyable and satisfying diet.
Geographic tongue is a condition that causes red lesions on the top or sides of the tongue. They may move around over time. The lesions are harmless but can be painful or itchy.
Geographic tongue is thought to be related to hormonal changes during menopause. The exact cause is unknown. Several home remedies may help ease the symptoms of geographic tongue, including:
- Drinking plenty of fluids
- Avoiding spicy or salty foods
- Using a soft-bristled toothbrush
If home remedies do not provide relief, try oral antihistamines or topical steroids. In most cases, geographic tongue is a benign condition that does not require medical treatment.
However, if you experience any of the following symptoms for more than two weeks, it is important to see a doctor to rule out other potential causes:
- Difficulty swallowing
How Menopause Affects Gums
Gum disease is an infection of the gums that can lead to tooth loss if left untreated. Gum disease occurs when plaque builds up on teeth and hardens into tartar. This can irritate gums and cause them to swell up and bleed (a condition known as gingivitis).
If plaque continues to build up below the gum line, it can form pockets that collect bacteria. This destroys gum tissue and bone (a condition known as periodontitis).
Women who are going through menopause are at an increased risk for gum disease due to hormonal changes that make gums sensitive and prone to bleeding. Women going through menopause must take extra care of their oral health by:
- Brushing at least twice per day
- Flossing regularly
- Rinsing with an alcohol-free mouthwash after meals
In addition, it's important to see your dentist for professional cleanings and to consult with them about any oral changes or concerns you may have.
Sleep Apnea and Oral Care
Menopause and sleep apnea often go hand-in-hand due to hormonal changes that occur during menopause. Sleep apnea is a condition in which breathing often stops and starts during sleep. It can cause loud snoring, gasping for air, and daytime fatigue.
If you have sleep apnea, you may not be getting the quality of sleep you need to feel rested and alert during the day. Oral care is an important part of managing sleep apnea. Keeping your teeth and gums healthy can help to minimize the risk of respiratory problems.
If you have sleep apnea, be sure to talk to your dentist about the best oral care routine for you.
Oral Care as We Age
As we age, our bodies change in many ways. Our skin gets thinner and less elastic. We lose muscle mass and bone density. We also experience a decline in the production of saliva, which can lead to a whole host of oral health problems.
Dry mouth can make it difficult to swallow, speak, and taste. It can also lead to an increase in cavities and gum disease. We can do a few things to offset the effects aging has on our oral health, for example:
- Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
- Chew sugarless gum to stimulate saliva flow.
- Use a humidifier at night to keep our mouths from getting too dry.
We can also take steps to protect our teeth, such as using a softer toothbrush and avoiding hard foods that could damage our enamel. Taking care of our mouths as we age helps ensure that we can enjoy good oral health for years to come.
Dental Implants and Oral Care
Dental implants are a popular and effective way to replace missing teeth during menopause. They are also used to support dentures. Unlike dental bridges, which rely on adjacent teeth for support, implants are anchored into the jawbone.
This makes them much more stable and durable, and it helps preserve the surrounding teeth' health. Implants can help improve the function of the bite and prevent bone loss in the jaw.
However, implants require a high level of oral care to remain healthy and functional. Plaque buildup can cause implant failure, so it is important to brush, floss, and keep up with your teeth’s cleaning routine.
Regular dental checkups and cleanings are essential to ensuring that your dental implants stay healthy and functional for many years to come.
How Does Menopause Change Your Oral Care Routine?
So, how does menopause change your oral care routine? In a big way. If you've been wondering, "Can menopause affect your teeth?" you now know the answer is "Yes!"
The good news is that you are now equipped with the knowledge of caring for your teeth during menopause. Be sure to follow the tips listed above and to visit your dentist regularly. Download our free cosmetic dentistry guide to learn how to get started with taking care of your smile as you age.