Menopause is a natural part of a woman’s reproductive cycle, but just because it’s natural doesn’t necessarily mean it’s pleasant. It signals the end of her childbearing years, and her reproductive system definitely goes out with a bang.
The process is gradual. It doesn’t just happen overnight. It usually begins from the age of 45, though some women begin as early as 30 while others continue to have periods in their 60s. As expected, the main sign of menopause is skipped periods. They don’t stop altogether, at least not a first. You’ll notice that your flow is lighter and that during some cycles, you don’t bleed at all.
It’s important to note that during menopause, a woman still has latent fertility. There have been many cases of menopausal pregnancies, so when you skip a period, get a pregnancy test, just in case. You might need to do multiple tests because menopause hormones can sometimes mimic pregnancy hormones, and you might test positive even when you’re not.
Other symptoms of menopause include hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, and decreased libido. Of course, everyone is different, and for some women, menopause increases their sex drive, at least at the psychological level. Some women get racing heartbeats and have trouble sleeping.
There are certain menopause symptoms that are discussed less frequently. You might have urinary incontinence. You may experience pain while urinating, or while having sex. Your vagina might start to itch. And of course, your teeth might act up.
During menopause, your doctor will ask you to keep a close eye on your health and to note the ways your body is changing. This is because you might assume any strange symptoms are caused by menopause, and this could lead to ignoring serious health issues which may not necessarily be related to your waning reproductive cycle.
In terms of your dental health, menopause can cause a few problems for your teeth and gums. The falling levels of oestrogen can dry out your mouth. It also changes the mucus levels in your body. These two factors make your gums thinner and weaker, which means they will look pale and shiny and are more likely to bleed.
All this combines to increase your susceptibility to periodontists. Coupled with loose gums, your bone density is reducing, and that affects your teeth. They become weak, and since your gums are affected, your loosely anchored teeth may start to shake and may fall off completely if you don’t give them extra attention.
The rest of your body is likely to experience hot flashes during the day and night sweats after dark. Your mouth experiences changes in temperature regulation as well. You might feel intense bursts of pain in your mouth, lips, tongue, teeth, palate, and gums. It’s referred to as burning mouth syndrome and can be quite uncomfortable.
Another oral symptom of menopause that’s rarely discussed is related to food disorders. During menopause, many women tend to hold onto their weight and get heavier. This is especially bothersome to healthy eaters and fitness enthusiast. They may have previously maintained their trim figures, so when their weight starts to suffer, they sometimes resort to drastic measures and crash diets. Some develop eating disorders and intentional vomiting, which erodes the enamel and harms their mouths.
Women can minimise symptoms through hormone therapy, though that does have side effects. Also, some women can’t use hormone therapy safely. If you’ve previously had blood clots, a stroke, liver disease, or cancer of the uterus, breast, or ‘endometrium’, then hormone therapy can cause a relapse, so your doctor won’t recommend it.
You should also avoid artificial hormones if you have vaginal bleeding that hasn’t been conclusively diagnosed. Usually, menopause makes the bleeding stop, so if you have unusual bleeding, it could be a sign of a deeper issue. It’s probably a good idea to lay off the hormones until your doctor can figure it out.
Incidentally, you’re not considered to be in full menopause until you have skipped periods for 12 consecutive months (and haven’t had a baby during that period, pun intended). If you’ve gone 12 months without a period (and without a pregnancy) and you suddenly experience vaginal bleeding, it’s not a good sign, so you should see your doctor immediately
Increasingly, women are turning to homeopathic remedies to resolve their menopause matters. Common options include black cohosh, ginseng, kava, dong quai, red clover, or evening primrose. While they seem to work, they’re unregulated, and dosage isn’t clinically measured, so please talk to doctors and expert dentists before you try them out.