Journal / Menopause

The Effects of Menopause on your Health

Nancy L. Belcher

Medically reviewed by Nancy L. Belcher Ph.D, MPA

Written by Winona Editorial Team

Last updated November 25, 2021

The Effects of Menopause on your Health

What Every Woman Needs to Know

Your dental health has a huge effect on your overall health. There is a little-known connection between bleeding gums and hormonal imbalance. We often focus on how to relieve the chronic symptoms of peri- and menopause-like increased weight, ever-changing mood, and low libido. However, we also need to emphasize the role that hormones (or the decrease in hormones) have on your dental health. The dramatic effects of decreasing hormones with age can make you more vulnerable to gum disease

With menopause, the plaque and bacteria that normally try to inhabit your mouth can suddenly become a big problem. When your hormone levels were at their youthful levels, before perimenopause, you likely didn’t notice mouth irritation but with age, it certainly gets worse. There are signs that might indicate that you are suffering from dental symptoms of menopause:

7 Dental Signs of Hormonal Imbalance

  1. Bleeding gums

  2. Swollen gums

  3. Red gums

  4. Burning or painful mouth

  5. Taste of mental

  6. Receding gums (a sign of bone loss in the jawbone)

  7. Dry mouth

As we age, our gums will sometimes bleed when we brush our teeth. But we may also notice that our gums are receding and our mouth is chronically dry. If you have noticed these things, or want to prevent them, it’s worth figuring out what’s going on and preventing the development of dental diseases.

Why is This Suddenly a Problem?

Throughout our lives, it is natural for plaque to try to build upon our teeth, and bacteria always try to hang out around gums which creates cavities. As our hormone levels fall (estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone), the amount of blood flow to our gums increases. This increased blood flow to the mouth/gums means that the gums are more sensitive and maybe they “overreact” to things that previously would not have irritated them.1

This kind of irritation can cause gums to become inflamed, swell and even bleed. If we ignore these symptoms and leave them untreated, the ongoing inflammation in the gums can lead to bone loss around the teeth and eventual tooth loss.1

While our hormones are ever-changing, the drop during peri- and menopause can be corrected using hormone replacement therapy (HRT). By using HRT,  gum disease can be preventable and reversible. 

There are five stages in a woman’s life where she can make a huge impact on preventing gum disease. 

5 Stages Where You Can Prevent Gum Disease

  • Puberty
    We know that the raging hormones at puberty can leave gums red, swollen, bleeding, and even develop canker sores . The best treatment at this phase of life is brushing and flossing regularly.1

  • Monthly Period
    When it’s that time of the month you can have swollen, bleeding gums, canker sores, or swollen salivary glands. The symptoms typically subside when the period stops.1

  • Birth Control Pills
    When using birth control, typically the method is to add back hormones to prevent fertilization. Early birth control pills (say 30 years ago) provided much higher levels of hormones and resulted in inflammation as a side effect, but today’s birth control treatments provide lower levels of estrogen and progesterone and typically are too low to cause any issues with your gums.

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  • Pregnancy
    During pregnancy, your body works hard to maintain a healthy pregnancy by adjusting hormone levels. Because some hormone levels are particularly high, some women can develop pregnancy gingivitis. Pregnancy gingivitis is a more mild form of gum disease that causes gums to be red, tender, and sore. Good daily brushing and flossing habits can keep it under control. 

  • Peri- and Menopause
    Menopause and perimenopause are due to the drop in hormones. As we now know, hormones are directly connected to mouth health. If you are in perimenopause you may be noticing changes in your mouth that are all likely related to hormones.1

    These menopause symptoms are not just annoying, they may be dangerous to your health. Changes to be aware of during peri- and menopause that can help to prevent gum disease: 

  1. Saliva Flow
    As your saliva flow decreases with menopause (dry mouth), you have now lost the method that cleanses and rinses cavity-causing bacteria off your teeth and you are more at risk for cavities.1 If you are noticing dry mouth you can try drinking more water, non-sweetened beverages and you can even use an over-the-counter dry mouth spray or rinse to help reduce the dryness.

  2. What You Eat
    What you eat can also make a difference when it comes to dry mouth. If you notice your mouth is dry you can try to avoid salty, spicy, sticky, and sugary foods, as well as dry foods that are hard to chew. Alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine can also make dry mouth worse. A humidifier can also make a difference.

  3. Bone Loss
    We know that estrogen and testosterone play an important role in bone maintenance. As your hormone levels drop, so does your bone density making your bones more brittle and susceptible to fracture. Your jawbone is where your teeth are embedded. Losing bone in your jaw can lead to tooth loss. Signs of bone loss in your jaw can be something as simple as receding gums. 

    Even worse, when your gums recede, more of the tooth is exposed and that puts more of your tooth at risk for decay. And if your mouth is dry, well, that’s even more of a risk. There is an old way of saying someone is old, you say they are, “a bit long in the tooth.” This saying is related to the fact that as you age, your gums are more exposed and your teeth appear to be longer than they were in your youth. HRT, calcium, and vitamin D, can all help reduce the amount of bone loss. 

  4. Decrease Inflammation
    Estrogen at normal, youthful levels, can suppress inflammation throughout your body. But as estrogen declines during perimenopause, this anti-inflammatory protection mechanism decreases.2 During perimenopause, unhealthy lifestyle habits such as poor nutrition, lack of exercise, and unmanaged stress can have a greater impact on your oral health than when you were younger.

What Can You Do Now?

  1. Consistently brush, floss, and see your dentist.

  2. Think about the foods you are eating – are you eating foods that increase inflammation or adhere to your teeth? Sugar, alcohol, sticky foods are tough on your teeth.  

  3. Start Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) and normalize the hormones that are the root of the problem. Contact Winona today to get started.

“This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.”

References:

  1. https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/h/hormones

  2. https://www.womenshealthnetwork.com/hormonal-imbalance/hormonal-imbalance-is-tied-to-gum-disease/

  3. February 2013 review in the journal