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Aging Changes Needs of Women’s Oral Health

Women who reach menopause or post-menopause experience fluctuations in hormone levels. This can cause changes in gum tissues, including sensitivity, more severe reactions to irritation from bacteria buildup, a dry mouth, changes to taste, and/or burning sensations.

During this phase of life, females can also be more susceptible to gingivitis, the initial stage of periodontal (gum) disease.

Yet, it’s not just older women who experience gum tissue changes due to hormones. During puberty, an increased of progesterone and estrogen cause an increase in blood flow to the gums. This can cause gums to redden and be more sensitive.

However, menopausal or post-menopausal females have lower estrogen levels and, therefore, greater oral health risks – including tooth loss – are made worse by osteoporosis.

The most common form of osteoporosis is that which affects post-menopausal women. Post-menopausal osteoporosis is a leading cause of bone fractures, including a higher incidence of wrist fractures, vertebral fractures and hip fractures.

Osteoporosis and related fractures have become a leading health concern in America, being more prevalent than coronary disease, stroke and breast cancer. Because the increasing global population is living longer, researchers have taken a growing interest in the relationship between osteoporosis and periodontal disease.

The influence of osteoporosis on periodontal disease has been studied since 1968. With the world’s rapidly aging population, however, researchers are more actively investigating the links between oral diseases and other serious health problems, including osteoporosis.

Age is an obvious factor in both gum disease and osteoporosis. One survey reported that less than 4 percent of adults between ages 18 – 34 had ‘perio’, 86 percent over age of 70 had at least moderate periodontal disease with more than 25 percent having lost all of their teeth.

Periodontal disease is an oral inflammation that contributes to tooth loss and destruction to the bone structures that support teeth. It is estimated that nearly 47 percent of American adults have some level of gum disease.

Although gum disease affects oral tissues, the bacteria is able to enter the bloodstream through weakened gums. This enables bacteria to move through the body with an opportunity to activate inflammatory triggers elsewhere. Research has linked the bacteria of gum disease to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, preterm babies, impotency and Alzheimer’s disease.

For many women, treating gum disease does not mean the problem is resolved. In a ten-year study, women who had both osteoporosis and periodontal disease were shown to experience far greater severity in gum disease than females who had gum disease but not osteoporosis.

This particular study also revealed a correlation between overall skeletal bone loss and a decline in bone mass that supports teeth. Too, indications of declining levels of tooth-supporting bone indicated risks for bone fractures elsewhere in the body.

While osteoporosis has not been labeled to be a cause of gum disease, it seems to affect the severity of gum disease once it presents itself. This should be an alarm for women who are menopausal or post-menopausal so they can take special measures to reduce the risks for gum disease and tooth loss.

Based on these findings, females should also be familiar with the symptoms of gum disease. These include gum tissue that becomes shiny or darkens in color, gum tenderness or swelling, seeing blood in the sink when brushing, frequent bad breath, and gums that recede from teeth to expose darker, sensitive tooth root areas.

Your best preventive measure, male or female of any age, is to have regular dental exams and cleanings. Your 6-month check-ups help you maintain a healthy, confident smile throughout each year.

Call 219-987-5733 to schedule an appointment at our Demotte IN dental office or begin with a no-charge consultation to get to know us.