Your Teeth on Menopause
Among the many changes that take place during menopause are the ones hiding inside your mouth.
You’re likely familiar with hot flashes, sleep difficulties and mood swings… but did you know that menopause can also affect your mouth?
No? Neither do 84 percent of women 50 and older, according to a survey by Delta Dental.
Declining estrogen levels may contribute to issues like sensitive teeth, sore gums, altered taste, and dry mouth.
So, if you put off a visit to the dentist - and who doesn’t? - you might want to think twice. (I kind of feel bad for dentists. I mean, who ever walks into a dentist’s office happy?? Dentists are the dreaded enemy before you even open your mouth. And when you consider the array of sights and sounds - drills, needles, suction devices, and the horror of having to keep your mouth in a most unnatural and uncomfortable state for an unconscionable period - it’s no wonder.)
Menopause, studies show, makes our teeth and gums especially susceptible to hormonal changes.
Every time I open my mouth, I imagine opening the doors to an exclusive, heated garage, where an array of well-tended and very excpensive luxury cars sit, gleaming and white, expertly polished.
But I digress. And apologize. Because I really do like my dentist. He is a genuinely nice guy just doing his job.
You may think the absence of pain means nothing is going on behind the scenes, but if you do you are sadly mistaken. Here’s why it’s so important to take care of your mouth, especially around menopause.
In addition to burning mouth syndrome (BMS), here are some of the most frequently reported oral menopause-related symptoms :
Your salivary glands partially depend on hormones to function properly. Saliva re-neutralizes acids in our mouth, acting as a “wash” of sorts to rinse away acidic residue from foods. Saliva then repairs your tooth’s protective surface (a process known as “remineralization”).
When salivary production decreases, it can lead to a condition called dry mouth. The fallout? (Hopefully not your teeth.) When left untreated, dry mouth can not only make swallowing foods and liquids difficult, but it can contribute to tooth decay. Other problems associated with dry mouth: sore gums, cavities, mouth ulcers, and gum sensitivity.
Jaw clenching and teeth grinding
Stress much? Especially around the oft-challenging menopausal years? If you feel stressed or agitated, your jaw and teeth might be taking the hit. It’s not uncommon to let stress settle around the mouth area, especially while we sleep.
Over time, this can damage your teeth with chips, fractures or loosening. Teeth that are subjected to grinding (known as bruxism) can wear away your tooth’s protective enamel, rendering them sensitive and painful. If untreated, the tooth (or teeth) can even fall out. A visit to the dentist can diagnose and fix the problem with various methods, including a mouthguard to wear while you sleep.
Although the studies say their oft-used “more research is needed,” there is chatter among some researchers that the loss of estrogen leads to gum recession and hormone therapy might be helpful, for some women, to sidestep this issue.
What happens when gums recede (a form of gum disease)? A lot. When your gum tissue pulls away from your teeth, it exposes the roots underneath. Then, your teeth become more sensitive to cold, heat, and sweets, more prone to decay, and more sensitive during dental cleanings. Though there is no reversing gum recession, there are ways to treat it.
It’s easy to avoid the dentist; I don’t think you’re in danger of the Dentist Police coming for you. But perhaps worse than that is being served with tooth pain, bad breath, tooth decay, infections that can threaten your overall health, and perhaps worst of all, losing your pearly whites.
Things I like; things I covet…
My legs ache sometimes. Call it aging, or call it over-doing it (I prefer the latter). These leg compressors have a hefty price tag (and maybe there are less expensive options out there), but I’m throwing it out there in case anyone wants to buy their mom/wife/mother-in-law/gigi/friend a really special gift, hint, hint. And these can do double duty: I can wear them in the dentist's chair while I’m getting my teeth cleaned.
Speaking of teeth, I happen to own this toothbrush and am passing along the link in case you’re looking for a really good oral experience.
If you’re going to care for your teeth, don’t forget your lips. I recently ordered this nourishing balm after reading rave reviews, but haven’t tried it yet. Tonight might be the night.
When it’s cold, my teeth chatter. It’s cold. And when my teeth chatter, I’m afraid they will chip. Hence, this warm plush robe will pair perfectly with my Ugg slippers.
As always, I truly appreciate my readers, and always welcome more. If you are so inclined, please feel free to share with anyone you think might be interested!
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