Women's Health Issues- Part 4: Oral Changes in the Aging Population
Our aging population presents with certain challenges in regards to their dental treatment. As the metabolism slows and our ability to recover and repair diminishes, our bodies become more susceptible to disease and dysfunction. In addition, women will undergo a decrease in hormone production. The reduction of hormone levels, combined with the cessation of menses for one year is termed menopause.
Menopause is surrounded by pre and post menopause periods. Each of these phases present their own sets of conditions. In the pre-menopausal period, some women experience pain or a burning sensation in their mouths. Others may have an altered taste perception or swollen gums. Yet, 30-50 percent of women can transition into menopause without any symptoms whatsoever.
The post menopausal period may present with the most significant changes in a women's health. Due to the lack of estrogen, women become more susceptible to osteoporosis and heart disease. Osteoporosis is defined as a reduction in bone mass. This may lead to deformity, fractures, and occasionally pain. Throughout life, our bones go through a natural cycle of bone formation and breakdown. However, post menopause, the scales tip toward breakdown. This may become evident in the mouth causing bone loss around teeth resulting in tooth loss. Although some risk factors for osteoporosis like race and family history cannot be changed, other factors are modifiable. Taking calcium supplements and increasing regular exercise as well as quitting smoking will all reduce the chance of developing osteoporosis.
After menopause, many women may also experience a condition called burning mouth syndrome. The symptoms often present spontaneously and may last for years. Unfortunately, little is known about the cause. The treatment includes alleviating any additional condition that may have precipitated the syndrome. These include treatment of any inflammation, chronic infections, nutritional deficiencies or symptoms of pain or dry mouth.Continued on the next page