The connection between menopause and an increased risk for gum disease, heart disease and even oral cancer.
Menstruation and childbirth are uncomfortable, yet joyful realities of womanhood. The coming of age for a woman is defined by her first monthly flow or “period” and signifies that she is now ready for future motherhood. There is, however, another reality of being a woman that is not as welcomed: menopause. With menopause comes significant changes to a woman’s body, and in turn her oral health.
The gums are a sensitive part of the mouth and are easily affected by hormonal fluctuations. That is why women are more susceptible to gum (periodontal) disease during hormonal events like pregnancy and menopause. Due to changes in estrogen levels, menopause signifies the end of a woman’s reproductive functions. Some women cite that their menopause started after a few months of continuous flow before stopping completely; others cite that their flow gradually decreased before stopping altogether. Often, menopause occurs in a woman’s 40s, but can even start in the late 30s.
It is important for women to understand the link between menopause and their oral health. Studies have shown that gum disease puts you at higher risk for other more serious complications, such as heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and even oral cancer. According to The American Cancer Society, oral cancer occurs nearly as often as leukemia and claims almost as many lives as melanoma cancer.
Some tips to help you ward off gum disease are:
- Brush with a battery-powered toothbrush
- Floss every day
- Relieve stress through exercise
- Get enough vitamins and minerals
During menopause, some women may experience any of the following mouth conditions: burning mouth syndrome, mouth dryness, taste alterations (in salty, peppery or sour), bone loss in the bone supporting the teeth due to osteoporosis, sensitivity to hot and cold foods or drinks, difficulty removing dentures, gums that bleed more easily or pus between teeth and gums, bad breath, gum disease (e.g., gingivitis or periodontitis), and more. According to the American Academy of Periodontology, a condition called menopausal gingivostomatitis can also affect a small percentage of women. Symptoms of menopausal gingivostomatitis include gums that look dry or shiny, bleed easily or that are abnormally pale to deep red. Often, your dentist or periodontist will prescribe special medications to relieve such symptoms.
Your dentist or periodontist will also be a great resource in helping you combat the effects of menopause on your oral health. Find a Smile Generation-trusted dentist or specialist near you.