Did you know that oral health can influence the health of the rest of the body and vice versa? The American Academy of Periodontology explains that oral diseases can impact the body and pose a risk for other chronic diseases such as diabetes, stroke, or Alzheimer’s disease.
It can also have an impact on some body conditions, and some habits can even positively influence the health of the mouth (1). Here we will focus on its relationship with menopause.
How does menopause affect oral health?
Hormonal changes in women throughout their lives can affect their dental health. For example, puberty, birth control, pregnancy, the menstrual cycle, and menopause. These can make them more vulnerable to oral problems. (2)
During menopause, there are three factors that can cause changes in your mouth and make you more susceptible to disease. These are (2,3):
- Age-related changes.
- Alterations due to prolonged consumption of medicines.
- Hormonal changes associated with menopause.
The menopause puts women at increased risk of bone loss or osteoporosis. This is due to a drop in oestrogen levels in the body.
Bone loss in the jaw can lead to tooth loss. In addition, there may be receding gums, which exposes more teeth and makes them more prone to decay. Additionally, lack of oestrogen can cause inflammation in the tissues surrounding the teeth, called periodontitis. (3)
This is in addition to age-related changes and secondary conditions. Many chronic or degenerative diseases, such as diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease or Alzheimer’s disease, can affect oral health. These diseases can cause a chronic inflammatory state that can increase the risk of periodontal disease by changing the bacterial flora in the mouth and inflaming the gums.(4)
Changes in oral health associated with menopause
Changes that may be experienced during menopause, in relation to dental health, include (2,3,4):
- Dryness in the mouth.
- Taste disturbances or burning sensation in the mouth.
- Alteration of the normal bacterial flora due to chronic diseases or the use of certain medications. There may also be an alteration of the immune response.
- Bone loss of the jaw.
- Gum recession and increased tooth eruption.
- Inflammation of the tissues of the mouth.
- Tooth loss.
- Impaired blood flow to the gums.
Oral health: common oral diseases in menopause
It is estimated that at least 43% of women in menopause suffer from oral complaints (3). As the list of possibilities is quite variable, the following are most notable (2,3):
- Dental sensitivity.
- Mucous membranes and gums more sensitive to pain and injury (from brushing, flossing or chewing).
- Inflammation of the gums.
Oral diseases and ailments often have a great emotional impact on women. As a result, they may experience everything from low self-esteem to dental loss, to chronic anxiety. (3).
Important menopausal care to maintain a healthy mouth
Women in perimenopause, menopause, and postmenopause are more prone to oral diseases. It is therefore essential to take care of the mouth, teeth, and gums during this period. Some recommendations for maintaining oral health are (5):
- Brush teeth at least twice a day, preferably with toothpaste containing fluoride.
- Floss at least once a day.
- Visit the dentist annually for a dental examination and professional oral cleaning if necessary.
- Eat a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables.
- Avoid excessive consumption of sugary or starchy snacks. Do not consume more than 150ml of fruit juice per day.
- Denture wearers should clean their mouths and dentures at least twice a day.
- Ask your dentist what options are available to combat dry mouth.
- Add other healthy lifestyle habits to your routine, such as eliminating smoking, avoiding alcohol, getting good rest, and physical exercise.
Oral health is important at any age, but even more so in menopause. The reason for this is that the changes inherent to this stage make women more susceptible to dental diseases. For this reason, it is important to have a check-up with a dentist regularly and to maintain good oral hygiene and healthy lifestyle habits.
- American Academy of Periodontology. Gum disease and other diseases. [Internet]. 2023. [Cited 2023 March 4.] Available from https://www.perio.org/for-patients/gum-disease-information/gum-disease-and-other-diseases/
- Cleveland Clinic. Hormones and Oral Health. [Internet]. 2018 [cited 2023 March 4.] Available from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/11192-hormones-and-oral-health
- Ciesielska A, Kusiak A, Ossowska A, Grzybowska ME. Changes in the oral cavity in menopausal women-A narrative review. Int J Environ Res Public Health [Internet]. 2021; 19(1):253. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19010253
- Bhuyan R, Bhuyan SK, Mohanty JN, Das S, Juliana N, Juliana IF. Periodontitis and its inflammatory changes linked to various systemic diseases: A review of its underlying mechanisms. Biomedicines [Internet]. 2022; 10(10):2659. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/biomedicines10102659
- Adult oral health: appliying All Our Health. [Internet]. Gov.uk. 2022 [cited 2023 March 4.] Available from: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/adult-oral-health-applying-all-our-health/adult-oral-health-applying-all-our-health