January 8, 2012
From My Dental Health Companion
Very often there is a direct correlation between a woman’s oral health and an underlying medical condition she may be experiencing. Below is some of the more common examples of this type of health issue.
Dry mouth, also called xerostomia, when someone doesn’t have enough saliva in the mouth making it hard to eat, swallow, taste, and speak. If left untreated, dry mouth can lead to cavities because saliva helps break down bits of food and helps stop acid from forming plaque on the teeth.
For women who are pregnant, dry mouth, thirst and dehydration are considered early signs of the increases in blood volume, urination volumes, and fluid demands triggered by the hormonal fluctuations occurring during pregnancy. Other common causes for dry mouth include medicine side effects, diabetes, Sjogren’s syndrome, Parkinson’s disease and/or a blocked salivary glands. Treatment for dry mouth depends on the cause and can range from medicines to diet changes. To minimize the dryness, suck on sugarless candy, avoid smoking, avoid drinking alcohol, and use a humidifier at night when sleeping, especially during the drier winter months.
Canker sores, which can also result from hormonal changes occurring during pregnancy, can be a symptom of certain nutritional deficiencies and/or underlying medical conditions, such as anxiety, depression, taste problems, use of blood pressure medicines such as ACE inhibitors, and/or fungal infections. Other possible causes of canker sores include fatigue, stress, hormones, allergies, Crohn’s disease, and/or Celiac disease. Canker sores are small ulcers inside the mouth. Women are more likely than men to have issues with recurring canker sores. Fortunately, canker sores generally do not require treatment and usually heal on their own in one to three weeks. Large canker sores (e.g., a half inch or larger) may, however, require medicine for treatment.
In an effort to minimize pain from canker sores, it’s best to avoid hot and/or spicy foods, use salt water or mild mouthwashes, and use over-the-counter pain medicines.
Burning mouth is a condition that involves a burning feeling in the mouth and/or the tongue. While the cause of burning mouth is unknown, it is relatively common when women experience the hormonal changes associated with menopause.
Tooth loss can be a very serious oral health problem. And, osteoporosis, a disease causing bones to become less dense over time, can be the culprit. Jaws, for example, are often referred to as the anchor for the teeth. Accordingly, a weakened jaw makes losing teeth becomes more and more likely. For example, the risk of tooth loss is three times greater for women with osteoporosis than for women who do not have the disease.
Women are encouraged to take calcium and vitamin D, exercise, eat right, and do all of the things necessary to help prevent osteoporosis. This is an important tool in preventing tooth loss and maintaining overall oral health.