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Menopause and your smile

 

Age brings women experience, wisdom and confidence — but it also comes with hormonal changes, a whole mess of targeted advertising and an increase in dental risk. Learn what to look for and what steps you can take as you enter this season of life.

1,300,000

American women reach menopause each year. Most women reach menopause between 45 and 55, with an average age of 51, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information.

Chemical causes and effects of menopause

As your body produces less estrogen and progesterone, it can affect your saliva production, increasing your risk for dry mouth. Saliva rinses bacteria and food particles off your teeth and keeps your gums from receding, though that’s not all saliva prevents. If you have dry mouth, you may not have enough saliva to avoid tooth decay, gum disease and bad breath. Menopause also increases your chance of “burning mouth syndrome,” which creates a burning feeling that can extend from your tongue to your lips, gums, cheeks, palate and throat.

Self-care during menopause

If you are experiencing oral pain, dryness, sores or other problems, there are a few options. Your dentist may prescribe oral rinses, diet changes, or even medication to replace the hormones your body no longer makes. Whatever you’re feeling, let your dentist, physician and gynecologist know if you believe you may be experiencing menopause. Your trusted health professionals can diagnose your symptoms and tailor your treatments, based on your personal medical history.

80%

Osteoporosis is a condition that causes bones to become weaker and more likely to fracture over time. Women make up 80% of the 10 million Americans living with osteoporosis, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation.

 

Your risk of developing osteoporosis also increases after menopause. This is due to a significant drop in the production of estrogen, a hormone that protects your bones. Osteoporosis also makes you three times more likely to experience tooth loss, and bone loss in your jaw increases your risk of gum disease. But don’t worry: There are things you can do to maintain bone density.

Help keep your bones strong:

• Eat a balanced diet with foods rich in calcium and vitamin D such as milk, cheese, yogurt, spinach and salmon. 

• Maintain a regular exercise routine such as walking, jogging, dancing and lifting weights.

• Avoid nicotine, smoking and vaping.

• Limit alcohol to 2 drinks or less each day to maintain healthy bone density.

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So, what else should you do to keep that smile safe?

When it comes to mouth protection, these habits are still among the best:

• Brush two times a day

• Floss once a day

• See the dentist regularly

68%

of adults age 65 and older have gum disease. One in five have untreated tooth decay, while nearly all have had a cavity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The simple act of getting older increases health risks for men and women, including preventable diseases like tooth decay and gum disease, as well as conditions early diagnosis can catch in time, like oral cancer. The median age of those diagnosed with oral cancer is 62 years old.

As always, continue visiting the dentist regularly to keep up with your oral and overall health. Delta Dental plans typically cover 100% of the routine checkups that can help prevent these conditions or diagnose them early. Since original Medicare typically doesn’t cover routine dental care, consider if an individual dental plan may be the right choice for you at your current stage in life.

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