Recent years have seen a big push to break the menopause stigma, and in 2023 78% of UK women say they feel comfortable discussing the menopause with friends. However, some aspects of the menopause are more discussed than others. While most of us have heard about hot flushes and night sweats, it’s less likely that you will have heard about how menopause impacts oral health.
Why we need to talk about the menopause and oral health
A brand new survey from Delta Dental in the US has delved into the connection between the menopause and oral health, and why we need to talk about it more.
It found that an astounding 84% of the women over 50 surveyed were not aware of how the menopause impacts their oral health. Furthermore, it also found that 70% of the women taking part in the study were actively experiencing oral health symptoms that they did not realise were related to the menopause.
Maintaining good oral health is important at any age, however the teeth and gums are especially susceptible to hormonal changes. This makes it particularly important for people experiencing the menopause to be aware of how that stage of life can impact their oral health.
So, let’s dig deeper into the oral health effects of the menopause…
How menopause impacts oral health
The declining oestrogen levels that occur during menopause can contribute to a loss of bone mass in the spine, hips and jawbone. This leads to an increased risk of tooth loosening and loss.
Furthermore, 1 in 3 women experiencing the menopause have reported having a dry mouth. When saliva glands don’t produce enough saliva it means that your mouth cannot wash bacteria off the teeth and gums. This means bacteria accumulates in the mouth and gums and raises the risk of gum disease and tooth decay.
Dr Jessica Buehler, senior director of dental affairs at Delta Dental says “saliva is the natural buffer of your mouth, and less saliva means less protection against dry mouth, which is at the crux of all the other oral health symptoms related to menopause.”
So what are the oral health symptoms related to menopause?
79% of women over 50 say they have noticed a change in the appearance of their teeth and gums as they age and 70% say they have noticed at least one of the following symptoms:
- Dry mouth
- Receding gumlines
- Tooth sensitivity, pain or decay
- Reduced saliva production
- Bleeding gums
- Altered gums
- Burning tongue
How to protect your oral health during the menopause
- Stop smoking
Smoking impacts the health of teeth and gums, and quitting is a sure-fire way to reduce your risk of gum disease and improve general health – which is especially important during the menopause. There are lots of free resources available to help you quit on the NHS website.
- Pay attention to what you eat and drink
Paying close attention to what you eat and drink, avoiding sweet and acidic food and drink and consuming less alcohol will help you maintain better oral health.
- Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)
HRT is a popular option for helping to keep oestrogen levels up during the menopause. However, it is best to talk to your healthcare provider about whether or not HRT is right for you, and there is little evidence currently to support that HRT is effective in preventing the oral symptoms associated with the menopause.
Speak to your primary care provider and dentist
The Delta Dental study revealed that very few women over 50 (38%) are communicating with their primary care provider about their menopause-related concerns, and even fewer are turning to their dentist. Your dentist will often be the first person to notice many of the changes experienced throughout the body during menopause, which is why it is so important to see your dentist and dental hygienist regularly, especially if you have started to experience any of the symptoms we’ve listed in this article.
Raising awareness about the connection between menopause and oral health is key and it’s essential that those experiencing the menopause are armed with the right knowledge about their oral health. Awareness has an impact – 77% of the women who took part in the Delta Dental Study said that they will now prioritise scheduling their next dental exam/cleaning and 54% said they would now spend much more time on their oral health routine.
Book your next dental check-up or hygiene appointment by calling us on 01482 565488 or using our online booking system.