Could Estrogen Help Prevent Gum Disease?
A new study from the University of Buffalo has found that estrogen therapy to treat osteoporosis could help prevent gum disease in older women. Researchers looked at nearly 500 postmenopausal women, 365 of whom had been diagnosed with osteoporosis. Of those 365, 113 were receiving estrogen therapy as treatment for their osteoporosis. The results of the study found that that the women receiving estrogen therapy for at least six months had periodontal pockets that were shallower than those who weren’t receiving the treatment. In addition, the women receiving estrogen therapy had less space between their teeth and gums and less bleeding of the gums than those who had not been receiving the treatments.
Hormones Can Affect Gum Health
According to the American Academy of Periodontology, a number of factors affect a woman’s risk for gum disease, especially the hormonal changes associated with puberty, menstruation, pregnancy and menopause. These hormonal changes lead to changing conditions inside the mouth, said Dr. Amy Norman, DDS, a leading dentist in the Everett, Washington, area.
"The fluctuation in hormones affect the blood supply to the gum tissue. When there’s an increase in blood flow, the gums can become sensitive to bacteria and become easily inflamed and irritated," she said. "If this inflammation is left untreated, it can lead to gum disease and a whole host of complications."
Menopausal Changes Affect the Whole Body, Even the Mouth
One of the most concerning changes that can occur in the mouth during menopause is dry mouth. A decrease in saliva can cause a lot of problems when it comes to oral health, Norman said.
"Dry mouth isn’t just annoying. In fact, the Oral Cancer Foundation says that 30 percent of tooth decay in older adults is a result of dry mouth," she said. "Without saliva to help wash away food and bacteria, tooth decay and gum disease become a problem."
Another menopausal change that can be detrimental to women's oral health is the drastic decline in estrogen. The loss of bone density that happens as a result of estrogen decline can lead to tooth loss. This connection is why the University of Buffalo researchers and many others in the medical and science field continue to explore ways to correct the rapid loss of estrogen and prevent bone loss.
Norman recommends taking vigilant care of teeth after and before menopause to lessen its negative effects on teeth. Some tips include:
- Using a fluoride toothpaste to brush teeth at least twice a day.
- Flossing and rinsing the mouth with antiseptic mouth rinse at least once a day.
- Avoiding sugary food and drink and maintaining a healthy, balanced diet.
- Seeking treatment at the first sign of dry mouth.
The beginning stages of gum disease are reversible, but once the infection does enough damage to enter the second and third stages, the bone loss and eventual tooth loss becomes permanent, Norman said.