While many women are familiar with the connection between menopause and osteoporosis, some are unaware of its connection to gum disease. Gingivitis is common during menopause, and if not recognized and treated, can lead to a severe form of gum disease known as periodontitis. Here are some ways menopause can raise your risk for periodontitis and what you can do about them:
Salivary Gland Malfunction
When your salivary glands malfunction, they may not produce enough saliva to wash away gingivitis-causing bacteria in the mouth. Because of this, microorganisms can accumulate under your gum line, raising the risk for gum recession and gingivitis. Menopause can raise your risk for a disorder known as Sjogren's syndrome, which is an autoimmune disease that causes dry mouth and dry eyes.
This is because Sjogren's syndrome affects your tear glands as well as your salivary glands. If you have an autoimmune disorder that affects your salivary glands, watch out for the signs of periodontitis. They include bleeding and inflamed gums, a bad taste in your mouth, sores on your gums, and in rare cases, damage to the bones underneath your gums that support your teeth. As soon as you notice these signs, you will need a periodontist services professional.
A periodontist is a dentist who has advanced training in diagnosing and treating diseases of the gums. If you have a dry mouth, your dentist can recommend a lubricating mouthwash to help keep your oral tissues hydrated. Also, be sure to drink plenty of water or other non-caffeinated beverages throughout the day to help wash away infection-causing bacteria inside your mouth.
Another reason menopausal women are predisposed to gum disease, especially periodontitis, is because their estrogen levels decline during the menopausal years. Estrogen helps maintain healthy gum tissue and underlying bone, and when levels decline, gum recession and subsequent gingivitis can develop.
Hormone replacement therapy can help raise your estrogen levels so that your gums stay healthy, however, it is not recommended for everyone. If you have a personal or family history of breast cancer, your doctor may discourage you from taking hormones.
While beneficial to your oral health, estrogen replacement therapy may promote the development of breast and other gynecological cancers, as these malignancies are often triggered by high estrogen levels.
If you are in menopause, see your dentist on a regular basis. If he or she discovers signs of severe gum disease, you may be referred to a periodontist for further evaluation and additional treatment, if necessary.
For more information on periodontist services, reach out to your local periodontist