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Sensitive teeth and the menopause

How to deal with a pain in your mouth

Many of us have experienced a stabbing pain when eating an ice cream or drinking a hot drink, or a dull ache after consuming sugary foods. In fact, women are more likely to be affected by sensitive teeth than men [1].

This sensitivity occurs when the layer soft dentine within our tooth is exposed, which happens when the protective layer of enamel has been damaged or worn away. Every time you eat or drink anything acidic – even healthy foods such as tomatoes or oranges – the enamel wears away and the remainder becomes temporarily softer. The layer of enamel ends where the tooth and gums meet and if you have receding gums, your tooth roots will be exposed, and the root does not have an enamel layer.

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Usually, your saliva can neutralise acidity but if there is too much acid, parts of the enamel can erode.

Dentist Dr Shabnam Zai says: ‘Brushing your teeth too hard or for too long, particularly from side to side, can wear away the gum and expose the root surface. can be worn by grinding your teeth and some counterfeit teeth whitening treatments, which is why we recommend you only get tooth whitening done by a dental professional.’

How does menopause increase sensitivity?

‘Menopause itself does not cause increased sensitivity but other factors do, such as increased gum recession, more food trapping and reduced saliva flow,’ says Dr Shabnam. When a decrease in hormones causes a reduction in the production of saliva, it means bacteria can’t be washed away as readily, leaving gums more prone to bacteria and the build-up of plaque.

‘Root exposure is the main cause of sensitivity. Other causes are cavities, due to poor cleaning, and increased consumption of sugary foods or snacking,’ says Dr Shabnam.

RELATED: menopause and bleeding gums

The increase in prevalence of gum disease during the menopause means that not only are gums inflamed and sore, but the tooth root and nerve tissues are more exposed, increasing sensitivity.

How can I treat my sensitive teeth?

Dr Shabnam says: ‘Preventing the damage in the first place is always best, but if it has occurred then I would recommend using a sensitive toothpaste twice a day. Some special formulations can be rubbed directly on the tooth for one minute and can give instant relief. If you grind your teeth, wearing a mouthguard at night will stop you from damaging any further enamel.’

A visit to your dentist will help to identify the cause of your sensitivity and determine a suitable treatment plan. You might be recommended to use a toothbrush with a sensitive head, a toothpaste for sensitive teeth, or a fluoride gel or rinse to build up protection for your teeth.

You should try to reduce the amount of sugary and acidic foods and fizzy drinks you consume and only have these as part of a meal, rather than as a snack. Dr Shabnam recommends that when you are drinking acidic drinks, such as lemon water, sparkling water, orange juice or fizzy drinks, you use a straw and have a sip of water afterwards to rinse the acid off your teeth. Avoid brushing your teeth straight after eating as your enamel will be weakened and more vulnerable, plus brush in small circles rather than from side to side.


Dentist Dr Shabnam Zai is clinical director at West House Dental, Follow her on Instagram @drshabnamzai


1. Oral Health Foundation

Sensitive teeth and the menopause

Written by
Dr Shabnam Zai

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