How to look after your teeth during and after the menopause

For some women, menopause and the years that follow it can be a time where underlying dental issues start manifesting themselves as problems that can require urgent, and sometimes expensive, solutions.

In particular women with gum disease, the world’s most common inflammatory condition, can become more susceptible to tooth loss. The reason for this is that the lowered oestrogen levels that occur during and after the menopause can result in lower bone density.

Teeth are held in the mouth by being attached to bone in the jaw. This means that lowered bone density can reduce the amount of bone available to attach to your teeth and keep them in the mouth.

For the majority of women, this is not too much of an issue, as even if your bone density does lower, there is usually more than enough bone to keep your teeth attached in your jaw. However, gum disease can also reduce the amount of bone in someone’s jaw. This is because the harmful bacteria that cause the inflammation in your gums produces acid which can, very gradually and over a long period of time, dissolve the bone in your jaw.

Therefore, if you have the unfortunate combination of having had untreated gum disease over a period of years or decades, and have had significantly lowered bone density due to the menopause, then you are at particularly high risk of losing teeth. Clearly losing a tooth (or teeth) is something that nobody should have to go through. It can be psychologically traumatic, deal a huge blow to someone’s confidence and having a tooth replaced is expensive, not to mention incredibly time consuming.

Fortunately, there are ways that women can help lower their risk of tooth loss following the menopause.

The most important of these is to take measures to reduce the risk of developing gum disease. Doing this is simple: you just need to clean your gums twice daily, much in the same way as you clean your teeth twice daily.

There are several ways that you can clean your gums, either by flossing, using interdental brushes, or by using a water-flosser. It’s worth experimenting with all these cleaning methods and finding one that you do not mind using every single day.

Cleaning your gums daily is incredibly important. Not doing this and expecting to not develop some form of gum disease is equivalent to not brushing and being surprised when you develop cavities in your teeth.

It is also well worth your while to have a dental check-up to assess whether you currently have any gum inflammation. Such inflammation is easily diagnosed by a dentist and so long as the gum disease has not been left untreated for too long, it should be fairly simple to clean up.

In severe cases, you may be referred to a periodontist (gum specialist), for a gum cleaning, however in the majority of instances regular trips to the hygienist, combined with diligent gum care at home will be enough to manage any pre-existing gum disease.

Finally, you should also try to stop smoking if you are a smoker. Smoking has a doubly exacerbating effect on your chances of developing tooth loss following menopause. This is because it both heightens your chances of developing gum disease, and also can lower your bone density. It can even put you at higher risk of osteoporosis, a health problem related to low bone density that is already highly correlated to the menopause.

If you are aware that your bone density has dropped during menopause, then it’s recommended that you have more regular dental check-ups, perhaps once every 6 months. This can allow a dentist to regularly review the condition of the bone in your jaw and troubleshoot any bone degeneration before it progresses to tooth loss.

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Next review: 7 June 2019