“Nothing you wear is more important than your smile,” according to Connie Stevens. However, did you know that your smile could be in danger after menopause? Post-menopausal women are more susceptible to dental health issues like gum disease and tooth loss. However, recent studies suggest that hormone replacement therapy may help keep your smile healthy.
During menopause, our hormone levels start to decline. This can lead to a higher risk of many different health issues. Now, you may have heard of the increased risk for heart disease, osteoporosis, and other conditions. However, what many people don’t realize is that your mouth can also become more vulnerable after menopause. Some experts estimate that 1 in 4 women will suffer from tooth loss within five years after menopause.
Because the risk for oral health issues goes up after menopause, many researchers are studying the link between hormones and oral health.
After menopause, our risk for several oral health conditions goes up. For example, post-menopausal women are more likely to suffer from:
There may be many different reasons for why post-menopausal women are more susceptible to these dental issues. Hormone changes during menopause may play a role in this increased risk.
Did you know your mouth contains estrogen receptors? Estrogen and progesterone do a lot of different things in our bodies, so it makes sense that they may also influence our dental health.
The two major concerns for women after menopause that may lead to dental issues include the increased risk for dry mouth and the risk for bone mineral density loss.
Dry mouth is where you produce an unusually low amount of saliva. This is important because saliva helps keep our teeth and gums moist. It also helps clean the mouth and neutralize acids from plaque. It’s your body’s natural defense against tooth decay and gum disease. Estrogen can affect how much saliva you produce, which means you may have a higher risk of developing dry mouth after estrogen declines during menopause. Some studies have suggested that hormone replacement therapy may help increase the amount of saliva peri- and post-menopausal women produce.
Also, many researchers believe that estrogen has natural anti-inflammatory characteristics. When estrogen levels drop during menopause, you may be more susceptible to a condition called periodontitis. This is an inflammation of the gum tissue that causes it to pull away from your teeth, which can increase your risk for cavities and tooth decay.
Bone mineral density issues are also a concern after menopause. While you may think of broken arms and hips when you think of low bone density, it’s also important to understand that this can affect your jaw as well. Jaw bone loss can contribute to issues with your gums and teeth. For example, bone loss in your jaw may lead to receding gums, which exposes more of the tooth’s surface. This can increase your risk for tooth decay.
Many believe that hormones may play a role in why post-menopausal women are more likely to suffer from dental health issues. One recent study published in the North American Menopause Society’s journal, Menopause, suggests that hormone replacement therapy may help reduce the risk for gum disease and, by association, tooth loss.
There are a few reasons why estrogen replacement therapy may help reduce your oral health risks after menopause.
Gum disease is one of the leading causes of tooth loss. Hormone changes may influence our risk for gum disease. The study looked at 500 women ages 50 to 87 and looked at whether hormone replacement therapy had an effect on dental health. The women in the study were split into two groups. One group received hormone therapy as well as calcium and vitamin D supplements. The other group did not. The research showed some interesting results for the hormone replacement therapy group.
In the group who received hormones, 44% fewer women had severe gum disease. The researchers looked at several different factors that indicate gum disease. This included how far down the gums attached to the teeth, damage to the structures that support the teeth, and bleeding from the gums. The women in the hormone replacement therapy group noticed significantly fewer issues with these.
Also, the study adjusted the information based on common risk factors for gum disease, such as smoking, frequency of dentist visits, and more. The researchers concluded that their study suggested women treated with estrogen may have a lower risk for severe gum disease compared to those who don’t receive hormone replacement therapy.
Other studies have found that women who receive hormones for menopause had better dental outcomes and even spent less for dental care. Therefore, hormone treatment after menopause may help reduce the risks of dental issues. This may be due to several factors, such as saliva production, bone mineral density, increased blood flow, and reduced inflammation. While research is ongoing, this is an exciting addition to hormone replacement therapy research.
Hormone replacement therapy isn’t right for everyone, so it’s important to talk to our provider about your options.
Whether you’re a candidate for estrogen replacement therapy or not, there are some other things you can do to help keep your teeth and gums healthy after menopause, including:
At HerKare, we are here to help you address your health at every stage of life. If you’re experiencing menopause symptoms that interrupt your life, like hot flashes, night sweats, or mood changes, bioidentical hormones may help relieve some of your symptoms. Our providers are here to talk about your symptoms and help find personalized treatment solutions to help you feel better. Make an appointment today and let’s talk about your health and symptoms.