While seeking regular dental checkups is important for everyone, general dental care may be especially crucial to oral health for people in menopause. During the menopausal years, hormones can fluctuate wildly, leading to precipitous drops in estrogen. It is thought that estrogen has a protective effect on oral health, especially as it relates to gum disease. If you are nearing, or actually in menopause, consider the following general dental care interventions to help keep your teeth and gums healthy.
Gingivitis and periodontal disease can cause bleeding and sore, red, and inflamed gums. If not treated by your dentist, mild gum disease can progress to severe periodontitis. When this happens, the underlying bones that help keep your teeth in place may start to weaken. Vitamin C is an essential nutrient that can help stave off gum disease and lower the risk for menopausal-related periodontal disease. In addition, people in menopause may be at a heightened risk for developing vitamin C deficiencies, which can further lead to periodontal disease.
Vitamin C has potent antimicrobial properties and it can help lower your risk for oral infections and gingivitis. Adding more vitamin C-rich foods to your diet such as citrus fruit and green leafy vegetables can help increase your vitamin C stores. Do not start taking vitamin C supplements for your oral health until you discuss it with your dentist because they can raise your risk of developing enamel erosion.
Menopause may also be accompanied by dry mouth in certain people. When your mouth is dry it is less efficient at rinsing away the oral bacteria that can contribute to gum disease and cavities. If you suffer from frequent bouts of dry mouth, avoid caffeinated beverages such as coffee, cola, and tea because they can further dry out your mouth.
If drinking plenty of water fails to restore moisture to your mouth, let your dentist know. If warranted, they can recommend an alcohol-free mouthwash to help keep your oral mucus membranes moist and to help discourage bacterial growth inside your mouth. Using an over-the-counter alcohol-based mouthwash can further exacerbate oral dryness and should be discouraged unless directed by your dentist.
If you are in peri-menopause or in actual menopause, consider the above oral health interventions and seek general dental care on a regular basis. Taking care of your teeth and gums not only helps lower your risk for gum disease and cavities but may also help prevent tooth loss, chewing problems, and shifting of your teeth.