As you age, your body and your health may change in ways you might not expect. Some of those changes can affect your oral health, including Sjögren’s syndrome and bone loss. What are they and how do they affect your mouth?
People age 40 and older can develop a chronic autoimmune condition called Sjögren’s syndrome. It’s not uncommon. As many as 4 million Americans are living with Sjögren’s, and 9 out of 10 of them are women.
Sjögren’s is a systemic disease that affects the whole body. Experiences with the disease vary widely, but some of its symptoms in the mouth include difficulty talking, chewing or swallowing; a sore or cracked tongue; a dry or burning throat; and dry or peeling lips.
One symptom that most people have with the disease is dry mouth. Without enough saliva to help remove mouth debris, your teeth have higher risk of decay. Fortunately, there are many ways to treat the effects of dry mouth:
- taking frequent drinks of water;
- reducing alcohol and caffeine consumption;
- avoiding tobacco;
- limiting carbonated beverages;
- chewing sugar-free gum; and
- using an oral rinse.
As you get older, your risk of bone loss increases. One of the more common reasons is osteoporosis, which causes bone density to decrease.
In the U.S., as many as 54 million people already have osteoporosis or are at high risk for developing it. Women are especially susceptible to bone loss, since many experience lower estrogen levels after menopause.
What does this have to do with your smile? When your jaw bones lose density, you become more susceptible to loose teeth and tooth loss. It can also cause your gums to recede, leaving more of your tooth exposed and at higher risk of tooth decay.
With these threats to your oral and overall health, it’s important to maintain your health. Calcium and vitamin D are critical to preventing bone loss. Regular exercise like walking, jogging and weight-lifting are great for bone and overall health. And as always, quit tobacco and limit alcohol consumption.
More information on oral health issues unique to women are on our blog:
- 3 Stages That Affect Women’s Oral Health
- Toothpaste + Other Dental Products for Your Pregnancy
- 3 Pregnancy Dental Health Tips You Weren’t Expecting