If you're a woman in your mid-40s to 50s, you may be starting to see a drop in estrogen and the beginnings of menopause. Along with all the other changes this can bring to your body, your bones may be beginning to lose strength and mass. If you have dental implants or are considering them, loss of bone density in your jaw may be of particular concern.

How Does Estrogen Loss Impact Bones?

Estrogen is present in both men and women; while a complete loss of estrogen can impact males, noticeable drops in the hormone most often happens to women undergoing menopause. Typically this happens slowly and can be tempered with hormone replacement, but many women are choosing to forego hormone therapy in menopause because of its side effects.

The type of estrogen found in humans called estradiol helps to keep bones strong by suppressing the enzyme caspase-3. This enzyme destroys bone cells as part of a normal cycle of bone regeneration, which happens throughout life. But as estrogen diminishes when people age, caspase-3 can encourage more bone cell loss than the body can keep up with, leading to overall reduction in bone mass.

What Does this Mean for People With Dental Implants?

With any bone loss in the jaw, implants are at risk. How much should you be concerned? Researchers looked at five completed studies that show mixed results: Two studies showed that bone loss was an issue for those with implants; two studies showed that bone loss happened but not at a high enough rate in the jaw to make implants fail; one study showed no issues. These were all done in rats, so it's not certain exactly how this would translate to humans. It's clear, however, that there are no obvious reasons why people with estrogen loss cannot have dental implants, or all five studies would show problems. More research is needed to determine exactly what the risk levels may be.

What Can You Do?

Your dental implants may cause loss of bone around them naturally, and lower amounts of estrogen is just one risk factor in causing implants to fail. About one in four patients has some sort of bone loss around their implant area, and yet many of these are able to successfully have and keep implants. If you are estrogen deficient or you are going through menopause, you don't need to be alarmed, but you should minimize your other risk factors and adhere closely to your dentist's schedule for follow-up visits.

Other risk factors that you may be able to minimize include:

  • Stop smoking. Smokers have greater bone loss, especially in their mouths, possibly due to increased inflammation. If you smoke, quit.
  • Use excellent oral hygiene to avoid periodontal disease. Gum issues can impact bone over time, again through inflammation and stress. You don't want these issues anywhere in your mouth, so brush, floss and use a dentist-recommended mouthwash at least twice a day.
  • Watch your diet. Foods high in calcium and magnesium can help your bones stay strong. Vitamin D is also an important factor in bone health, so have your levels checked and take supplements if necessary to make sure you get enough.

A loss of estrogen is not necessarily a factor in whether you're a good candidate for dental implants or whether you'll have any problems in the future if you already have them. It is just one issue to stay on top of if you do have implants. Talk to a local dentist (such as one from Riverdale Dental Arts) about how to properly care for your implants to avoid problems.