Thoughts on Better Aging

Osteoporosis and Dental Health

April 27th, 2015

Menopausal women need to protect their dental health and overall health with osteoporosis treatment.

If you’ve been reading up on what to expect during menopause, you have no doubt already learned a little bit about osteoporosis. This condition involves the loss of bone mass, sometimes at rates of up to 7 percent per year for some menopausal women. Bones made brittle by osteoporosis are at a high risk of fracturing or breaking in the event of a fall. In addition to being painful, such an injury can limit mobility and significantly reduce quality of life.

While fractures are a serious concern, sometimes they seem to overshadow another very significant problem, namely the risk of bone loss affecting menopausal women’s oral health. This too can have far-reaching consequences for quality of life.

Consequences of Bone Loss in the Jaw

Dense, mineral-rich bone in the jaw is essential for providing a strong foundation for healthy teeth. Unfortunately, in women with untreated osteoporosis a chain reaction of problems can occur as bone loss in the jaw progresses:

Loose Teeth: A combination of dental problems that menopausal women may experience can cause teeth to become loose. Bone loss in the jaw is certainly a potential factor. The fact that menopausal women with osteoporosis are more likely to have gum disease is also a major issue, because untreated gum disease can also weaken teeth and eventually cause tooth loss. Menopausal gingivostomatitis, a condition characterized by dry, shiny, easily bleeding gums, can also complicate matters because it may make women less willing to perform proper gum care at home, which will help allow gum disease to thrive.

Missing Teeth: If problems with loose teeth are not addressed, the teeth may eventually be lost. This can cause significant challenges to women’s health and well-being. For example, tooth loss leading to difficulty chewing can prevent women from getting proper nutrition. Tooth loss can also make women feel so self-conscious they withdraw from social interactions with friends and family, leading to isolation and depression.

Sunken Appearance: Once a tooth is lost, the process of bone loss in the jaw speeds up because the roots of the tooth are no longer present to stimulate the bone. Eventually, if enough teeth and bone are lost, women’s faces may take on a sunken appearance that makes them look very aged.

More Denture Replacements: Ongoing bone loss in the jaw will affect the fit of any full or partial dentures that are being used, necessitating frequent re-fittings and replacements. While some degree of bone loss will occur in all patients with missing teeth, it may be worse in women with osteoporosis.

How to Prevent Tooth Loss

As you enter menopause, it is extremely important to protect your oral health and your overall health by getting screened and treated for osteoporosis. You can further support the health of your teeth and jaw bones by practicing thorough dental hygiene at home and visiting your dentist regularly to check for bone loss via dental x-rays.

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