During periods of evident physical changes, such as puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause, hormones affect everything in a woman’s body. When it comes to menopause, the stereotypical symptoms are highly publicized, such as hot flashes, mood swings, sleeplessness and loss of libido. So, it comes to a surprise when an increasingly high number of women report deteriorating gum and dental health as a symptom. Many women don’t even realize they are at risk for developing dental problems as their hormone levels fluctuate or that the likelihood of this happening is great.
Menopausal women experience changes in their mouths due to hormone fluctuations. Whether these changes involve dry mouth, burning sensations in the gum, altered taste or tenderness in the mouth, it is a symptom that affects over a large majority in perimenopause, menopause and post-menopause stages. The Journal of Periodontology recently published a study that found 23% of women, aged 30-54, and 44% of those women, aged 55-90, have periodontitis. Periodontitis is an advanced form of periodontal disease, which is a serious infection of the gums and bones supporting teeth, often leading to tooth loss. Periodontal disease has also been linked to heart disease, the number one cause of death in men and women.
Causes of Poor Gum and Dental Health
When a woman goes through menopause, her estrogen levels fluctuate constantly. Eventually, this results in decreased estrogen production. This process has a tremendous impact on gums, salivary glands, joints, and jawbones. Some women develop a rare condition known as menopausal gingivostomatitis, a condition where the outer layers of the gums separate from the underlying tissue, exposing nerve endings. Because an estrogen deficiency also reduces bone mineral density, this can result in bone loss. If one experiences bone loss in the alveolar bone, it can result in tooth loss.
Symptoms of Gum Issues
- Bad breath that doesn’t go away
- Sensitive, soft, or swollen gums
- Dry or shiny gums
- Teeth that look longer due to receding gums
- Gums that bleed during brushing or flossing
- Changes in the color of your gums (pink to pale or red)
- Pus between your teeth and gums
- Gums bleeding with little pressure
- Gums that have pulled away from teeth, creating a pocket
Symptoms of Dental Issues
- Dry mouth
- Tooth decay
- Burning tongue
- Jaw problems
- Altered taste perception
- Noticeable changes in the way your teeth fit together when you bite down
- Pus between your teeth and gums
- Pus coming from between your teeth and gums
- Bad breath that doesn’t go away
- Poor dental hygiene definitely contributes to sore, swollen or bleeding gums.
- Vitamin deficiencies can lead to inflamed, bleeding gums. Niacin and Vitamin C deficiencies are the most common of them.
- Not being gentle while flossing can also result in gum problems.
- Bleeding gums are one of the many side effects of chemotherapy.
- Canker sores, or mouth ulcers, is another cause of sore gums. Although researchers haven’t determined what triggers canker sores, they believe bacteria or viruses could have something to do with it.
- Certain medications can affect one’s gum and dental health because it can decrease the production of saliva, which as a protective effect on your gums and teeth. Examples are Dilantin and Adalat.
- Certain lifestyle choices can have serious consequences – using cigarettes and other tobacco products is no exception. Smokers are more prone to developing gum disease than non-smokers.
- Diseases, such as HIV, diabetes or cancer, interfere with one’s immune system, putting them at greater risk for infections.
- Brushing too vigorously damages tooth enamel and injures gums.
When to See a Doctor
If you are experiencing gums that heavily bleed when brushed, pus coming from your gums, bad breath that can’t be treated, receding gums or extremely swollen gums, it is advised to seek medical attention.
Managing Poor Gum and Dental Health
Daily Lifestyle Changes
The good news is gum problems can be avoided, or at the very least symptoms can be minimized, with these simple lifestyle changes:
- Stress Reduction and Relaxation – Since stress raises the likelihood of inflammation on your body during menopause, relaxation exercises, breathing exercises, massage, hypnosis, yoga and visualization techniques are all wonderful ways to help deal with stress and minimize the effects of it on your body during menopause.
- Exercise Regularly – You don’t have to live at the gym though. Go for a walk around the block and take the stairs instead of the elevator for starters.
- Maintain Dental Hygiene – Stay disciplined when it comes to dental hygiene. Make sure to brush your teeth twice a day, using moderate circular motions instead of a back-and-forth movement. Also, don’t forget to floss every day. This will keep plaque from accumulating and infecting your gums. Finally, have your teeth professionally cleaned every six months and schedule regular checkups.
- Rinse Daily with Fluoride – Rinsing daily with fluoride will reduce the bacteria in your mouth.
- Quit Smoking – If you’re a smoker, try to quit immediately. Smoking increases the risk of plaque, formation of deep pockets between your teeth and gums and leads to the loss of bone and tissue that support your teeth.
A well-balanced diet does wonders for women during menopause. To make up for fluctuating estrogen levels, try to eat foods that will promote an increase in the hormone. Alfalfa, apples, cherries, potatoes, rice, soy, wheat and yams will help with this. It’s also important to eat foods rich in vitamin C and calcium, like broccoli and yogurt among countless other options. Drink plenty of water, too, which will keep food and other bacteria off your teeth and gums.
- Stay hydrated – One of the most important diet changes to prevent gum disease is to drink at least eight glasses of water a day. Water will help keep bacteria, food and grime off your gums and teeth.
- Eliminate Sweets – Candy and sugar not only promote dental decay, but they also harden gums. Many clinical trials have shown that sugar feeds the bacteria that cause gingivitis.
- Eliminate Soda – Soda contains phosphorous, which leads to a calcium depletion from your bones. Some studies have shown osteoporosis can begin from tooth loss before it affects your hips or spine.
- Phytoestrogens – Adopt a dietary plan that includes foods that contain phytoestrogens. These plant estrogens bind to estrogen receptors in your body and can alleviate hot flashes. Soy, tofu, beans, legumes, seaweed, potatoes, apples and carrots are all wonderful sources of phytoestrogens.
- Replenishing Your Diet – Eating more calcium-rich foods, like broccoli and yogurt, are easily adaptable diet changes to prevent poor gum and dental health.
Experts recommend starting with lifestyle and dietary changes before considering other treatments. If the recommended lifestyle and dietary changes are not effective in alleviating your gum and dental health, there are wide array of treatments that a menopausal woman can choose from.
- Vitamins - Vitamin C is one of the leading nutrients that has a powerful effect on the mouth when in adequate levels and has a negative effect on the gums and teeth when in low levels in the body. Vitamin C is responsible for collagen production in the skin tissue, including the gums. If one lacks proper supply of Vitamin C, the body will have a difficult time regenerating gum tissue.
- Alternative Medicine – Chinese medicine has been a long standing treatment for headaches around the world. Acupuncture is a medical treatment involving the insertion of sharp sterile needles into the body at specific points according to a mapping of “energy pathways.” Acupuncture in particular has produced outstanding results in oralfor many women.
One of the most commonly used herbal remedies is Black Cohosh, a perennial plant that is a member of the buttercup family. It provides powerful phytoestrogens that mimic the hormone’s effects and bind to hormone receptors in the uterus and other parts of the body, alleviating hot flashes. Black Cohosh is also known to relieve hot flashes efficiently and is a good alternative to HRT. It is also used effectively for treating PMS, arthritis and lowering blood pressure. Red Clover, Dong Quai, Ginseng, Kava and evening primrose oil can be used as natural therapies, although there are some risks involved. Herbal supplements are not as closely regulated as prescription drugs and the amount of the herbal product, quality and safety may vary between brands.
- Herbal Remedies – Echinacea and Calendula are popular herbal remedies used to soothe sore gums and reduce inflammation in the mouth. The two commonly known herbs for treating joint pain are phytoestrogen and non-estrogenic herbs. Some of the most common phytoestrogen herbs are Saint Johns Wort, Black Cohosh and Dong Quai – all which contain estrogenic components produced by plants and replace some of the missing estrogen hormones experienced as a result of menopause. Although these herbs are known to maintain the balance of key neurotransmitters in the brain, they can also make your body less responsive to producing its own hormones, causing a further decrease of one’s hormone levels. Non-estrogenic herbs are known to nourish one’s hormonal glands into producing its own natural hormones. By stimulating one’s own hormone non-estrogenic herbs, such as Macafem. Macafem is grown in the Andes of Peru and has achieved great success in naturally increasing one’s hormone levels.
- Hormone Therapy Treatments (HRT) – For more severe cases of menopause, women may seek surgical or pharmaceutical treatments, although it is important to keep in mind that there are many studies showing hormone replacement therapy (HRT) increases a woman’s risk of elevated blood pressure, endometrial and breast cancers, strokes, blood clots and gallbladder disease. It is advised to speak with your doctor or healthcare professional regarding the negative side effects before you begin treatment. est during menopause.