Menopause is an inevitable part of every woman's aging process, but the true extent of its impact is still frequently underestimated. Menopause is, for example, often accompanied by a serious deterioration in dental health among female patients, but these changes are largely preventable with the right care and attention. As you transition into this next phase of your life, don't neglect to follow these four steps to keep your teeth and gums as strong and healthy as possible.
Combating Periodontal Disease
Besides regulating your reproductive system, estrogen also plays a critical role in the dental health of women, particularly when it comes to gum tissues. Although the precise mechanism behind this positive relationship between estrogen and your gums is not perfectly understood, it is clear that incidents of gum disease increase when estrogen levels drop. As you go through menopause, it becomes increasingly important to keep thorough flossing habits, and you should schedule regular checkups with your family dentist to monitor the status of your gums.
Warding Off a Dry Mouth
One of the more frustrating side effects of menopause is the feeling of a dry or burning mouth, which is caused by your body being less able to regulate its salivary production. Saliva is partially responsible for slowing the growth of plaque in your mouth and regulating its pH levels; frequent dryness can quickly accelerate the process of tooth decay as a consequence. If you constantly feel like you need a glass of water, you may want to look into prescription saliva substitutes, which mimic the effects of saliva through a synthetic replacement. Otherwise, chewing sugar-free gum may be enough to stimulate your saliva production and provide some relief for your mouth.
Taking Stress Off Your Teeth
As a natural consequence of aging and minor bone loss, the structure of your face and jaw will likely change during your post-menopausal years. This can realign your bite to a less optimal position, encouraging tooth grinding at night and placing undue stress on your mouth as you speak and chew. In light of this, a popular new market for orthodontics for senior citizens is now emerging, and you may benefit from subtly shifting your teeth into a better position for your changing facial shape.
Preserving Your Teeth for the Future
Women who are particularly concerned about their dental health during and after menopause may consider hormone replacement therapy as a way to minimize hormone withdrawals and their associated symptoms. If that is not an option for you, however, the best course you can take is to practice consistent dental hygiene and increase your regular dental appointments to several times per year. This will help you and your family dentist catch developing issues early and work to correct them before they cannot be reversed. With the right dedication, you should be able to maintain a healthy, full, and natural smile well into old age.