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Ask the Dentist

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Menopause & Tooth Pain

Q: Why do a woman's teeth and gums often hurt during menopause?

A:
During menopause, when estrogen levels drop, women may experience a dry mouth, burning sensations, altered sense of taste, and extreme sensitivity to hot and cold. Their gums also may become inflamed, hurt, or bleed.

Estrogen supplements can provide relief for some people, says Barbara J. Steinberg, of the Medical College of Pennsylvania and Hahnemann University. She also recommends frequent visits to the dentist for cleanings and a saliva substitute to lubricate a dry mouth.

Pharmacies sell saliva substitute in several forms, including sprays. Drinking water or chewing sugarless gum or candy also can help.

Sealants

Q: What are dental sealants, and how effective are they?


A: Sealants are thin plastic coatings painted onto the back teeth, where two-thirds of all cavities form. The pits and grooves of molars make for great food and plaque traps. Sealants stop bacteria from getting inside the grooves and can be 100 percent effective in preventing cavities.

They are effective, however, only on the sealed surfaces; you still have to brush and floss regularly to prevent cavities between your teeth.

Sealants, which typically last five to 10 years before wearing out, are usually placed on children's new permanent teeth. Only 7.6 percent of school-age children have sealants, and price may be the reason. Sealants can cost between $18 and $45 per tooth and may not be covered by your insurance.


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