Menopause and Oral Care

Approximately 36 million women in the United States are in the postmenopausal phase of their life. Women who have reached this stage of their life, experience a variety of symptoms. Besides symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats other factors are associated with menopause.

Due to the onset of menopause, there is a reduction of the hormone estrogen. This decrease in estrogen and other common age-related health issues increase the risk of certain diseases in the body. These include cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s disease and oral disease. This article addresses oral disease in postmenopausal women.

It is not unusual for menopausal women to exhibit an increased amount of cavities, alterations in taste, gum disease and brittle jaw bone. Salivary glands do not function quite as well as before, which causes a decrease in production of saliva. As a result, the mouth becomes very dry, which produces more cavities in the teeth. The saliva has a buffering effect on the tissues and actually will help keep the amount of plaque at check. This may also be the cause of taste being altered.

Evidence of increased bleeding, and inflammation (gingivitis) may also affect the gums. If osteoporosis is present, another risk factor may be fractured jaw while extracting impacted wisdom teeth or the placement of dental implants. This is why most impacted wisdom teeth are recommended to be extracted at a younger age.

Due to the stresses this phase of life presents to many women, TMJ or temporomandibular joint disorder may also become evident during menopause. One cause of TMJ is clenching or grinding the teeth. Some studies indicate there may be a relationship between hormonal replacement therapy and TMJ disorder.

It is therefore, important to find a dentist who is aware of the symptoms associated with this phase of life in women and their dental needs. It is also important to seek regular dental visits to prevent oral disease at the onset of menopause.

Reference: Arthur Friedlander: The physiology, medical management and oral implications of menopause, JADA, Vol. 133, January 2002

Abubaker AO, John F, Sotereanos GC, Patterson G, Jenosky J, Prevalence of female sex hormone use by female TMJ patients J Dent Res 1992;71:1225

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Written by Flora Parsa Stay DDS

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