Midlife Minute

A reader sent this question:

I would like to know if perimenopause affects your teeth. Mine are just falling apart on me suddenly.

My research yielded a few answers. First, the mere fact of aging puts wear and tear on your teeth, so it's debatable whether perimenopause or the fact that you're older is affecting your teeth. Chances are it's a combination of both.

Having passed through perimenopause myself, I can attest to this: It's a time when we might be feeling a wee bit more stress than usual (the reasons are myriad; one that comes to mind is the fact that your sleep can often be disrupted by hot flashes, which makes for a very unhappy, stressed-out person). And stress can lead to teeth-grinding (or bruxism, in medical terms), which in turn leads to more compromised teeth—prone to fracturing, loosening or even loss. What's next? Visits to the dentist for things like root canals, bridges, crowns or dental implants.

Then there are the other oral conditions that are sometimes related to menopause, like decreased saliva flow (leading to more decay, since saliva helps wash away harmful bacteria); gums that look dry or shiny, bleed easily and appear anywhere from abnormally pale to deep red; changes in taste perception especially in salty, peppery or sour. Another thing about menopause: bone loss that accompanies menopause (and aging, too) could be associated with periodontal disease.

For information on oral health, click here.

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