Women who lose teeth following menopause have a higher risk of an early death, according to the reports of a recent study that suggests gum disease and tooth loss rank a significant warning signs for severe health problems. This blog from David A Goldwyn DDS, a provider of dental implants in Portland,Oregon, can shed some light on this topic.
In the study, researchers also found that women who lost all of their teeth were at an even greater risk of early death, with a 17 percent increased risk of dying.
Researchers suspect that gum disease may serve as a warning sign of problems in other parts of the body, especially for chronic diseases of aging like heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Individuals that smoke or who consume excess sugar also have an increased risk of both oral health problems and more serious, life-threatening diseases.
Additionally, researchers suspect that increased bacteria in the mouth actually triggers more serious health problems, with harmful oral bacteria entering the bloodstream through cracks in gum tissue and traveling to other parts of the body.
Lead researcher of the study, Dr. Michael LaMonte of the University of Buffalo, said that no matter the cause of the link, more thorough dental screenings as patients grow older could help reduce women’s risk.
“Our findings suggest that older women may be at a higher risk for death because of their periodontal condition and may benefit from more intensive oral screening measures,” stated Dr. LaMonte.
“Beside their negative impact on oral function and dietary habits, these conditions are also thought to be related to chronic disease of aging.”
Published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, the study collected data from the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study, a decades long monitoring program in the U.S.
Researchers found that similar, smaller studies have indicated that gum disease could also serve as a warning sign of mortality in men.
Researchers noted that the link might be especially strong for women because how far estrogen levels drop post-menopause, which can cause bones to weaken among other problems.
Tooth loss could be an indication of a severe loss of estrogen, which can be a risk factor for cancer, heart health, and other diseases.
Dr. LaMonte stated that additional research is needed to establish whether women live longer if they see the dentist more often and improve their oral health.
“Studies of interventions aimed at improving periodontal health are needed to determine whether risk of death is lowered among those receiving the intervention compared to those who do not,” added Dr. LaMonte. “Our study was not able to establish a direct cause and effect.”
The results of this most recent study have been warmly received by oral and women’s health experts.
In response to the study, the Oral Health Foundation pointed to the significant changes that occur to a woman’s body during menopause and how increased awareness will hopefully educated about the importance of prevention during this time of transition.
As estrogen levels drop during menopause it can cause a variety of health issues, such as bone loss density, leading to osteoporosis. At the same time, changes in oral health also common occur as teeth and gums become more susceptible to disease, resulting in an increased risk of inflammation, pain, bleeding, and eventually, loose or missing teeth.
While this current research focuses specifically on tooth loss in post-menopausal women, it has been a well-held belief for a while that, for both men and women, the number of permanent teeth we have is a reliable indicator for our lifespans. Research has clearly shown that what goes on inside of the mouth can be an incredibly useful tool for determining our overall health. This makes it vital that we take care of our oral health and pay close attention to what’s going on, as it could be a sign of something far more serious.