Are you aware of the significant changes that your teeth go through during menopause?

During the menopause, your teeth are especially vulnerable. It is important to care for them properly as this will ensure that they are well-protected and as strong as possible. You may need to make changes to your dental routine.

What Changes Take Place in Your Teeth During the Menopause?

During the menopause, changes can take place throughout your body, affecting your bones, connective tissue and even sense of taste.

These changes may include bone loss or degeneration, leading to an increased risk of osteoporosis. You will be at a higher risk of tooth loss, especially if you have previously lost teeth due to periodontal disease.

Osteoporosis Affects Half of All Women over Fifty

Many people donít realise that they are at risk of osteoporosis until itís too late. Most cases are discovered after the sufferer falls and breaks their wrist or other bones. Half of all women over fifty, and one in five men over fifty, will suffer from osteoporosis in their lifetime.

The risk of osteoporosis increases during menopause and the condition has several negative effects on the body. As well as increasing the risk of tooth loss due to bone density loss in the jaw, it can make it harder to have conventional dentures or implants. It used to be impossible to implant teeth or anchor dentures in an osteoporotic jaw but there have been recent advances in technology.

You can help to reduce your risk of osteoporosis by stopping smoking and reducing alcohol consumption ó both are factors in your risk of osteoporosis. If you have concerns, speak to your GP. Treating osteoporosis as soon as possible can reduce your risk of fractures.

Women over Fifty Are More Vulnerable to Dental Issues, Dry Mouth and Other Symptoms

All women going through the menopause are more vulnerable to decay, dental infections and other problems. If you notice any changes it is best to consult your dentist.

There are many symptoms that shouldnít be ignored. The first, which may also develop earlier in life, is xerostomia ó also known as dry mouth. It can be caused by medication and may be a symptom of other conditions such as diabetes. It is worth consulting your doctor if you are concerned, especially if it is a side effect of a medication. Xerostomia can increase your chance of tooth decay and make it hard to swallow food.

You may notice that your gums bruise or become injured more easily and may begin to recede. Your dentist may be able to advise you of the best way to treat these symptoms before they cause any more major effects, such as tooth loss.

Much like during pregnancy, your tastes in food may change due to the differing levels of hormones in your body. While this is nothing to worry about, you should continue to make sure you eat a balanced diet to maintain your health. You may also have occasional feelings of burning in your gums, tongue and mouth. This may be unnerving but is usually harmless.

Lifestyle Changes That Can Improve Your Dental Health

The first and most important way to improve your dental health is to improve your brushing technique. Your dentist may be able to recommend a toothpaste that will help to maintain your dental health. Electric toothbrushes are very helpful in maintaining dental health. You should be brushing thoroughly for at least two minutes twice a day, making sure that every area of the mouth is completely clean. Follow this by flossing and/or using TePe brushes in the gaps between your teeth to make sure these are clear of food deposits.

You should be aiming to see your dentist and dental hygienist more frequently. They will be able to help you care for your mouth better, as well as maintaining any dental work youíve had done. With any change to your teeth or jaw comes increased risk that fillings, veneers and crowns may break or detach. The dental hygienist is particularly helpful if your gums are receding. As gums recede, they reveal spaces that are hard to clean and not as resistant to decay.

A healthy diet is another factor that can protect your teeth; a balanced diet high in vitamins C and D can reduce inflammation in your gums and aid the renewal of tissue and bones.

Replacing Missing Teeth with Dentures or Dental Implants

If you do lose a tooth, or several teeth, there are various options available to you. Dentures, the standard replacement for a missing tooth or missing teeth, are becoming outdated. Unsecured dentures rub against your gums, affect speech and can even alter your sense of taste. There are now more comfortable and permanent options available.

If you are a denture user, it is now possible to have mini implants fitted to secure your dentures in place.

If, however, you want to replace teeth more permanently, dental implants are your best option. There are several types, designed for different functions. A single implant will replace a single tooth and a bridge implant is a solid section to replace multiple teeth. Dental implants prevent the natural erosion of the jaw around a lost tooth, and help to maintain bite and tooth position. This also prevents the deterioration of the jaw joint and maintains chewing function.

Medicines and Treatments That Can Cause Issues With Your Dental Health

Heart medications and antidepressants can cause xerostomia, making your teeth more vulnerable to decay. Blood thinners such as heparin or warfarin make your gums more likely to bruise and bleed and some medicines, including antibiotics, antidepressants, and antihistamines, can stain your teeth.

You should visit your dentist whenever you have concerns about your dental health. They will be able to help you with any problems you have and alert you to any issues you are developing that you are not yet aware of. Donít be afraid to discuss the changes that the menopause is causing ó they will be better able to treat you when they have a clearer idea of what you are going through.

Dr Raj Wadhwani BDS LDSRCS(ENG) DGDPRCS(ENG) MFDSRCS(ENG) MClinDent (Prosth) MSc (Imp) is the Founder, Clinical Director and Lead Clinician of Antwerp Dental Group, a dentistry practice in Cambridge. He has a special interest in using advances in technology to further the practice of dentistry, specifically laser dentistry and CAD/CAM dentistry. He teaches and mentors at the Royal College of Surgeons.