Keeping Teeth and Gums Healthy in Menopause (Keeping You Smiling)
When we hit menopause teeth and gums need extra attention, not just to to help us smile with confidence, but to help us stay healthy, as the state of our teeth impacts on our overall health.
Dentist, Yana Nikolova, explains why menopause affects oral health and gives her top tips on how best to keep your teeth and gums healthy in menopause and beyond!
As a dentist, all too often I see women over the age of 50 who have problems with loose and missing teeth.
Unfortunately the problem can usually be attributed to a combination of lowered bone density brought on by menopause, and long-standing, untreated gum disease.
Your teeth are secured in your mouth via the bone in your jaw. This bone quite literally holds the roots of your teeth in place.
If your bone density has lowered during and after menopause, there is every chance that the amount of bone that you have in your jaw may decrease.
Now this alone is unlikely to lead to a loosening of the teeth. There should be more than enough bone in your jaw to keep your teeth in place and even a 10% lowering of bone density should not affect that.
However, if you have long-standing gum disease then this, combined with a significant lowering of bone density during menopause, can lead to teeth coming loose as you get older.
Unfortunately, gum disease is the most common inflammatory condition in the world, and people can have it for years without any obvious symptoms.
The reason why gum disease and lowered bone density together can be such a problem for your teeth is that chronic gum disease can cause gradual degradation of the bone in your jaw.
This is because the harmful bacteria that cause such inflammation underneath your gum line excrete acid. This acid can literally dissolve your bone if given enough time.
This combination of bone loss due to bacterial infection, and bone loss due to lowered oestrogen levels is what can cause tooth loss as you get older.
As terrifying as this may sound, the problem is preventable, you just need to identify and manage any pre-existing gum disease.
This can be done through a number of measures:
Floss is boss!
Look after your gums in the same way you look after your teeth
It may sound extreme, but I really do believe that not flossing and being surprised if you have gum disease is akin to not brushing and being surprised if you have cavities.
You should aim to floss twice daily.
If you find flossing difficult or uncomfortable, you can instead use interdental brushes or even a water-flosser to keep your gums free of disease.
Treat it to beat it!
Make sure that any gum disease is treated and managed.
Although the common symptoms of gum disease are bleeding when you brush, swelling around the gum line (where the gum meets the teeth) and bad breath, often it can be near-symptomless.
This is why it is important to have your gums assessed during a dental check-up.
This is particularly true as you approach menopause.
A dentist or even a hygienist can easily manage minor gum inflammation.
It is only in more severe cases that a gum specialist (periodontist) is needed.
No joke, don’t smoke!
Smoking is the absolute enemy when it comes to jaw bone degradation as it exacerbates both gum disease and decreased bone density.
You really should try to avoid smoking at all costs, especially if you have a history of gum disease or a family history of osteoporosis.
Ultimately, the more you protect yourself against gum disease from an earlier age, the better condition the bone in your jaw will be as you get older.
Footnote: Yana has been practising general dentistry at London-based ‘92 Dental’, since 2007 and has completed post graduate training in Endodontics (Root Canal Treatment) at the UCL Eastman in London. General Dental Council number: 109230.
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