Oestrogen therapy could help women maintain the health of their teeth and gums following the menopause, a study has found.

Published online in Menopause, the journal of the North American Menopause Society (NAMS), the study evaluated 492 postmenopausal Brazilian women aged 50 to 87 years to determine whether osteoporosis treatment could help increase the bone mineral density in their jaws and, subsequently, improve overall oral health. Of those, 113 received osteoporosis treatment and 379 did not.

The study found that the rate of occurrence of severe periodontitis was 44% lower in the postmenopausal osteoporosis treatment group than in the untreated group. Treatment consisted of systemic oestrogen alone or oestrogen plus progestin, as well as calcium and vitamin D supplements, for a minimum of six months.

Increased risk

‘Osteoporosis can occur throughout the body, including the jaw, and lead to an increased risk of periodontal disease,’ said Dr JoAnn Pinkerton, NAMS executive director.

‘This study demonstrates that oestrogen therapy, which has proven to be effective in preventing bone loss, may also prevent the worsening of tooth and gum disease. All women, but especially those with low oestrogen or on bisphosphonate treatment for osteoporosis, should make good dental care a part of their healthy lifestyles.’

Oestrogen therapy is known to help patients manage a number of menopause-related issues, including reducing hot flashes, improving heart health and bone density, and maintaining levels of sexual satisfaction.

More vulnerable

Oestrogen levels fall during menopause, which makes women become more vulnerable to numerous health issues, including loss of bone mineral density, which can lead to osteoporosis.

Changes in oral health are also common at the same time, as teeth and gums become more susceptible to disease, which can lead to inflammation, pain, bleeding, and eventually loose or missing teeth.