OK, so you had prepared yourself for hot flushes, mood swings and brain fog… but no-one warned you that your mouth might suffer in the menopause.
Bleeding gums, tooth decay, bone loss in your jaw? They are nothing to smile about.
Yes, we’re afraid it’s true. You can be more susceptible to dental problems during menopause.
Studies have also suggested that more than one in four (28%) of post-menopausal women are likely to suffer from tooth loss within five years.
Why is this? Your whole body, including your mouth, gets drier as your oestrogen levels drop. Sadly, bacteria love breeding in this parched environment, and they cause tooth decay and bleeding or receding gums.
As this pesky hormone pops off, it also puts you more at risk of osteoporosis, which can lead to a loss of bone density in your jaw. This often first shows up as receding gums – and when more of each tooth is exposed it’s more likely you’ll get tooth decay.
In addition to gum disease and tooth loss, women going through the change can be at risk of other oral health conditions like Burning Mouth Syndrome.
Don’t worry, you don’t have to end up more gummy than gorgeous as you hit your sixties. Menopause and dental health can go hand in hand.
It just takes some extra oral awareness and vigilance, and your pearly whites can stay strong and snowy during this physically turbulent time.
BRUSH, BRUSH, BRUSH
We know you know. But it’s especially important you brush your teeth with a fluoride toothpaste last thing at night and at one other time during the day.
While you’re at it, get those interdental mini brushes bristling between your teeth too, or floss if you prefer.
With so much going on in your body, we understand dental health might not feel like a priority. However, if you put consistent work in now your mouth will reward you by staying healthy as your hormones do their worst.
OPEN WIDE NOW
Going to the dentist may not be on your ‘Top five places to visit’ bucket list – but it’s vital you take yourself and your clammy palms along on a regular basis.
Prevention is always better than cure. Particularly when it comes to dental problems in the menopause. So, don’t wait until you have inflammation, bleeding, pain or loose teeth to go and see your dentist. Make sure you stick to six-monthly check-ups.
LESS CAKE & KICK THE CIGS
Cut down on the amount of sugary stuff you consume, food and drinks, and you could poke tooth decay in the eye as you go from your forties to your fifties and beyond.
In fact, improving your overall diet will give your whole system a big boost. See our top tips on managing weight gain for some inspiration.
If you stop smoking too, you’ll increase blood flow to your gums and reduce the risk of infection. Living in the UK? You’re four times more likely to quit with help from the NHS. Your local GP surgery can put you in touch with your nearest Stop Smoking clinic.
If your mouth feels like it’s been stuck in the Sahara, it’s time to get more water down your neck. It’s best to do this by chugging methodically during the day, rather than downing a pint in desperation.
Equip yourself with a nice water bottle, sip away, and refill it until you hit the magic two-litre daily H2O target for optimal health.
Sugar-free gum or a dry mouth spray might help too. Sprays are sold at most pharmacies but can also be obtained on prescription.
GET HRT HELP
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) doesn’t just help women manage hot flushes. A study, of nearly 500 women between the ages of 50 and 87, discovered rates of gum disease were significantly lower in those receiving HRT.
If your gums are in a bit of a state, it may be worth discussing this therapy (and associated risks) with your doctor. HRT could also help alleviate other oral health conditions like dry mouth, Burning Mouth Syndrome and weakness in the jaw bone caused by osteoporosis.
If you’re already taking these tablets or slapping on patches though, it’s not an excuse to let your toothbrush get dusty. Absolutely keep on taking good care of your teeth.
HINTS AND TIPS FOR THOSE WHO WANT TO SUPPORT SOMEONE THEY THINK MAY BE ENTERING OR IN MENOPAUSE
We don’t recommend you take over brushing their teeth at night, that would be overstepping the mark.
Why don’t you take up these less invasive initiatives instead to help them maintain a healthy mouth during the menopause?
OUR ADVICE TO THEM
We’ve recommended that they brushes at least twice a day, uses interdental brushes or floss to get rid of trapped plaque between the teeth and chews gum between meals. It’s also important they stay hydrated.
ENCOURAGE HER TO SEE THE PROS
If dental problems have been going on for a while, seem to be getting worse or they are in pain, gently encourage them to go to the dentist.
Or suggest they talks to their doctor about taking Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) to help improve the condition of their gums, ease other oral health conditions like dry mouth, Burning Mouth Syndrome or weakness in the jaw bone caused by osteoporosis.
You could even offer to go to appointments with them to show your support.
LESS CAKE VICAR
Cut down on the amount of sugary stuff you consume together, food and drinks, and you can keep her away from tooth decay.
In fact, improving both your overall diets could give your whole systems a big boost. See our top tips on managing weight gain for some inspiration.
MAKE SAVVY OFFICE TREAT SWAPS
If you love to take snacks into the office for your teamies, and one of those teamies is having a few dental problems, be considerate.
STUB OUT SMOKING
Did you know that if you decide to quit together you are almost six times more likely* to kick nicotine than going it alone?
Help them say goodbye to bleeding gums by ditching the smokes too. You can then keep each other going, avoid temptation and bash those cravings on the nose.
*Research by the Imperial College London
If you’re worried about dental problems, you should see your GP who can discuss your symptoms in the context of the menopause.
If you'd like more information, we have put some further references below for you: