Women going through menopause experience a number of changes to their bodies. Hormonal imbalances can lead to many annoying and uncomfortable symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats which are well known and often discussed. A lesser known, but still important set of menopausal side effects is dental issues.

It’s crucial for women to be aware of menopause issues related to their dental health so they can take adequate steps to be prepared for them. This stage of life requires diligent oral care to prevent lasting damage to teeth and gums.

Common oral symptoms of menopause

Pain and discomfort. Many women experience mouth pain during menopause without fully understanding why. During this phase and even after menopause is over, it’s common to experience burning sensations and tooth pain. Some women also report that their sense of taste changes during menopause. About 43% of menopausal or postmenopausal women experience some form of oral discomfort.

Dry mouth. Estrogen levels affect the production of saliva, and it’s common for menopausal women to experience dry mouth. More than just a minor annoyance, dry mouth can actually cause serious problems. Saliva is part of our natural defenses against decay-causing oral bacteria, so women experiencing dry mouth can be more susceptible to cavities.

Bone loss. Changes in a woman’s estrogen levels can affect the strength of her bones. The onset of osteoporosis, a disease in which the bones become porous, brittle and subject to fracture, is often linked with menopause. Bone loss in the jaw can affect the fit of dentures and removable prosthodontics. It can also lead to tooth loss.

Gum recession. Gums tend to grow weaker and more sensitive during this phase of life. For many women during menopause, bleeding gums are a frequent occurrence. Serious conditions like gingivitis and periodontitis can happen as a result of the hormonal changes in the body, so women experiencing menopause and bleeding gums should carefully monitor the situation and see a dentist if it worsens.

Preventive care for menopausal women

Unfortunately, there is not much for a woman to do besides exercising increased diligence when it comes to their day-to-day oral care regimen. Floss at least once a day and brush twice a day, being sure to practice proper technique. If you’re not already in the habit of seeing your dentist twice a year, menopause is a great time to get in the habit. Making sure that you’re being seen regularly by a dental professional is the best way to catch developing problems before they get out of hand.

Hormones and oral health

Menopause isn’t the only phase of life when women’s mouths are vulnerable to hormonal changes. Pregnant women often experience problems with their gums and teeth. Puberty also affects gum health by causing blood vessels in the gums to dilate, leading to increased sensitivity. Some women even notice changes in their gums (such as swelling or bleeding) during their monthly period, although this is less common.

The important thing is for women to be aware of heightened risk during these phases of their lives, and work closely with their dentists. Let your dental professional know if you are beginning menopause so that he or she can carefully monitor you for any signs of concern.