Menopause and Dry Mouth

June 24, 2020.

This is one of those “Are you actually serious?!” symptoms of menopause. Really, dry mouth? It seems so obscure to be related to menopause. But we are here to tell you that your hormones play a significant role in your oral mucosa and dry mouth is a symptom of menopause. Fortunately, there are remedies that can make a dry mouth more manageable for menopausal women.

What is dry mouth?

Dry mouth (or xerostomia, if we want to get fancy) is when a person has a reduction in the salivary fluid which results in dry oral tissues. As one can imagine, this can be quite uncomfortable and sometimes debilitating. A dry mouth can cause difficulties in:

  • Tasting
  • Chewing
  • Swallowing
  • Talking

Dry mouth can also lead to tooth decay and demineralization and can make teeth more sensitive. People who have dry mouth are also more prone to oral infections and have a longer recovery time. Furthermore, the enzymes in your saliva help you begin to break down your food for digestion.

Causes of dry mouth include:

  • Certain medications
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation of the head and neck
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Uncontrolled diabetes
  • Infections and illness
  • Changes in hormones

Why does menopause cause dry mouth?

Female sex hormones have potent effects on your teeth and oral tissues. Cells in your oral mucosa contain estrogen receptors. A woman experiences a number of hormonal changes throughout her life including puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, breastfeeding, and menopause. Your oral health can be impacted by all of these hormonal changes. Aside from dry mouth, there are some oral health conditions that are commonly found in menopausal women that can be a result of low estrogen.

  • Burning mouth syndrome
  • Dental cavities
  • Changes in taste sensation
  • Dysesthsia (an unexplained sensation of pain or burning)
  • Periodontitis (gum infection)
  • Gingivitis (inflammation of the gums)
  • Osteoporosis of the jawbones

The mucosa in your mouth is actually quite similar to your vaginal mucosa in both its cellular structure and its responsiveness to estrogen. So you can imagine that if you suffer from vaginal dryness (as many women do in menopause), you will likely be prone to dry mouth as well.

Like the rest of your body, your mouth also undergoes changes associated with age. Menopause hits around middle age for most women, which is also the time when people start noticing age-related changes. As we age, we are more likely to experience issues with our teeth and overall dental health, especially in the presence of other health conditions or poor oral hygiene practices.

The mucosa in your mouth is actually quite similar to your vaginal mucosa in both its cellular structure and its responsiveness to estrogen.

Does menopause cause chapped lips and dry mouth?

Along with causing dry mouth, chapped lips can be also caused by menopause because low levels of estrogen draw moisture away from your tissues. If you are struggling with chapped lips there are a few things you should keep in mind.

  1. Firstly, check-in with the products you are using on your lips. If any products tingle, sting, or generally just feel uncomfortable, you are irritating your lips and need to switch products. The American Acadamy of Dermatology has a complete list of ingredients that you look for and avoid when searching for a safe, non-irritating lip balm.
  2. Secondly, wear lip balm with at SPF 30 in it whenever you are outside. You also need to reapply every few hours to keep your lips protected.
  3. Thirdly, stop harmful behaviors that can irritate your lips such as biting or chewing on your lips, or holding metal items like paperclips with your lips. Eating certain foods can be irritating too including spicy and salty foods.
  4. Finally, if you live in a dry environment, use a humidifier at night. Nighttime is ideal for lip repair so also consider putting on a non-irritating hypoallergenic ointment to heal your lips while you sleep.

What to do about dry mouth at night

It is already hard enough to get some quality sleep in menopause, so the last thing you need is a dry mouth keeping you up at night. Here are some home remedies for dry mouth at night.

  1. Keep a glass of water beside your bed. Try to drink plenty of water during the day so you are well hydrated but are not up all night using the bathroom.
  2. Use a humidifier to add moisture to the air.
  3. Avoid alcohol-based mouthwash as alcohol is drying.
  4. Limit caffeine intake as caffeine also draws moisture away from your tissues.
  5. Sucking on sugarless lozenges, candies, and gum can stimulate your salivary glands. There are also certain kinds of toothpaste and mouth-rinses specifically for people with dry mouth that you can try at home.
  6. Quit smoking.
  7. Avoid salty foods, especially before bed.
  8. Certain medications can dry your mouth out as well including decongestants and antihistamines (allergy medications).

If you have tried home remedies for dry mouth and you are still suffering, consult your dentist or medical doctor to see if something else may be causing your dry mouth or if they have more aggressive treatment options.

Disclaimer: This is not medical advice, does not take the place of medical advice from your physician, and is not intended to treat or cure any disease. Patients should see a qualified medical provider for assessment and treatment.

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Julia Walker
perry expert Julia (RN, BSN, BA) is a registered nurse based in Colorado. Julia's nursing background in women’s health has ranged from neonatal and postpartum care to labor and delivery, to outpatient gynecological medicine for both adolescent and adult populations. She specializes in helping women optimize their health during perimenopause and beyond.

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