1410 John B White Sr Blvd., Suite A
Spartanburg, SC 29306
Uhrich, Elizabeth D.D.S.
4605 Oleander Dr # 2
Myrtle Beach, SC, 29577-5739
Wiggins, Gregory B D.D.S.
1064 Gardner Rd # 103
Charleston, SC, 29407-5711
Luccy, Craig T D.D.S.
130 Stonemark Ln
Columbia, SC, 29210-3841
Nimmich, Michael W D.D.S.
2570 Lin Do Ct
Sumter, SC, 29150-1832
When women enter menopause, changing hormone levels bring about a variety of symptoms and raise new oral health issues. Women and their doctors must consider the entire range of physical and emotional health implications, including their oral health.
As natural levels of estrogen decline, women may find themselves at risk for loss of bone density. Jawbones are no different; these structures hold our teeth in place, and loss of jawbone density can lead to tooth loss.
When women lose teeth, there are other immediate considerations. One is the potential loss of nutrition, as people with fewer teeth or with problem teeth tend not to eat well. Second is the loss of confidence or self-esteem that results from any cosmetic changes to our bodies. And third, the financial cost of replacing one or more teeth can stretch even the best-planned budget.
Hormonal changes also can have an impact on the health of gums and teeth. Women may find that their gums become inflamed and bleed easily, and may discover that their teeth are more cavity-prone. Both gum disease and tooth decay can result in losing teeth, another good reason to consider your oral health during this significant time of your life.
Women may notice a burning sensation or dryness in their mouths. They also may discover that these changes cause food to taste different, leading to a loss of appetite. Be alert to an appetite loss that persists, particularly if you begin to lose weight.
If gums become inflamed or bleed easily, alert your dentist who will check for early signs of gum disease. A receding gum line may indicate bone loss in your jaw, so ask your dentist to examine your mouth and jaw carefully.
Both you and your doctor should discuss prevention techniques, including calcium and vitamin D supplements, and replacement therapy for hormones. These are personal decisions that vary from woman to woman, and your doctor is best equipped to advise you.
What you can do is pay attention to your nutritional needs. Make sure you eat a wide assortment of healthy foods. Fruits and vegetables provide essential vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. Exercise also is important to maintain your oral health and a healthy lifestyle.
Finally, keeping tabs on your emotional health as you enter menopause is important. A healthy outlook on life enables women to value themselves and seek the care required including: maintaining good oral health, seeing the doctor and dentist regularly, and focusing on healthy eating and exercise.
By Brian J. Gray, DDS, MAGD, FICO
Q. Why is it important that women be concerned with their oral health?
A. For many women, oral health changes throughout the different stages of their life, due to surges in sex hormone levels. The dentist may request to see the patient more frequently during hormonal surges.
Q. Gum disease tends to run in my family. What's the best way to prevent and treat it?
A. To prevent periodontal disease, dentists recommend the basics to all their patients: Brush at least twice a day, and floss once a day to remove plaque. Most people should see a dentist twice a year. Because of family history, some women may need to brush and see their dentist more often. There are also new medications that help fight gum disease. Recently, the Food and Drug Administration approved an oral drug, Periostat, which may improve tooth attachment and stop tissue destruction. Two other new products, Atridox (an antibiotic) and PerioChip (an antibacterial), are applied to the gums by your dentist. These medications are to be used in conjunction with traditional gum disease treatments, such as scaling and root planing.
Q. What problems occur for girls during puberty?
A. The surge in hormones that occurs during puberty may cause swollen gums, especially during menstruation. Herpes-type lesions and ulcers also can develop. They also may experience sensitive gums that react more to irritants.
Q. What gum problems may occur during menstruation?
A. Women may experience red, swollen, tender gums (gingivitis) a few days prior to their menstrual period because of increased levels of progesterone in their bodies. These changes occur because of an exaggerated gingival (gum) response to bacterial plaque and generally resolve toward the end of the menstrual period or shortly thereafter. To combat these symptoms, a dentist may recommend more frequent cleanings, fastidious home care, and possibly an anti-microbial mouth rinse or special toothpaste.
Q. Can women develop cold sores related to the menstruation cycle?
A. Yes, a few days before menstruation begins, some women may experience an activation of cold sores (herpes labialis). These sores occur on the lips and usually heal by themselves within 10 to 14 days. A dentist and/or physician may prescribe a topical medication for treatment.