As women age, a number of physical changes occur within the body. Changes in oral health are also affected by hormonal changes due to menstruation and menopause. During menstruation, women who tend to develop canker sores and cold sores may notice a pattern in which these sores recur regularly during the menstrual cycle.
Due to the hormonal changes that occur during the menstrual cycle, some women experience oral changes that can include bright red swollen gums, swollen salivary glands,and/ or bleeding gums. In addition, menstruation-related gingivitis tends to occur 1-2 days before the start of the menstrual period and clears up shortly after the period begins.
Oral changes that occur during menopause can result in altered taste, dry mouth, burning feeling in the mouth, heightened sensitivity to hot and cold foods and drinks, and decreased salivary flow. Dry mouth, which results from decreased salivary flow, can lead to the development of tooth decay and gum disease when saliva is not available to moisten the mouth and neutralize acids produced by plaque. In addition, certain prescription and over-the-counter medications that are often prescribed to older adults can also result in dry mouth.
The decline in estrogen that occurs with menopause also puts women at greater risk for bone density loss. Some suspect that bone loss is associated with both periodontal disease and osteoporosis. And, research is underway to determine whether the health issues are related.
Women considering hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to prevent osteoporosis should note that HRT may also protect their teeth. Estrogen also tends to relieve menopausal gingivostomatitis, which affects a small percentage of women and includes symptoms such as dry and shiny gums that bleed easily.
Hormones and Oral Health. Web. www.webmd.com. Accessed 20 Dec. 2011
Protecting Oral Health Throughout Your Life. Web. www.perio.org. Accessed 20 Dec. 2011.
Menopause & Oral Health. Web. www.dentalgentlecare.com. Accessed 20 Dec. 2011.
Important Oral Health Considerations for Women at All Life Stages. Web. www.knowyourteeth.com. Accessed 20 Dec. 2011.
Reviewed December 21, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith