If you need medical advice related to your menopause, chances are you'll consult your doctor. Depending on the nature of your inquiry, your doctor might need to refer you to a specialist. You might not expect to be referred to a dentist, but menopause can result in some changes to your teeth and gums—and these changes often need to be managed.
The physical effects of menopause are triggered by natural hormonal changes. Your body is in the process of ceasing estrogen production. Many of these physical effects are widely known. Your menstrual cycles will become shorter and irregular before stopping. There can also be hot flashes, night sweats, headaches, dizziness, irritability, and general fatigue. Other effects aren't so well-known, and these include the potential danger that menopause can pose to your dental health.
Your reduced levels of estrogen can affect your body in unexpected ways, and this includes your teeth and gums:
- The membrane that lines your mouth is called your oral mucosa. It's made of two distinct layers (your lamina propria and your oral epithelium). Reduced estrogen production can cause a thinning of your oral membrane, which can make your gums more sensitive (and potentially prone to infection).
- Hormonal changes can lead to decreased saliva production. The bacteria in your mouth interact with foods and drinks, and this creates an acidic byproduct (which can corrode your teeth). Saliva neutralizes this acid, so decreased saliva can make your teeth more vulnerable to cavities (and can lead to bad breath).
- Menopause can have the curious effect of disrupting your tastebuds. Food can simply taste wrong—excessively salty or bitter, and sometimes even having a metallic taste.
So how can dentistry help to manage these effects?
See Your Dentist
Dental problems related to menopause can mean you may need to visit your dentist more often than before. An increase in the frequency of your regular checkups allows your dentist to closely monitor your teeth and gums, taking action as needed. You won't need to see your dentist every week, but if you were visiting your dentist twice a year, they may suggest that you visit three times per year. This allows regular professional dental cleaning, which can eliminate plaque (a biofilm made of bacteria). This manages the oral bacteria in your mouth, helping to prevent tooth decay and gum disease.
Menopause won't always have much effect on a person's gums and teeth, but it's important to be aware of this possibility, and that this possibility means you should consult your dentist without delay.
Contact a local dentistry office to learn more.