Have you noticed that your mouth is parched and your lips are cracked? Believe it or not, this could be a sign of menopause.
Dry mouth, also called xerostomia, is quite common in women during this transitional time. In fact, more than 40% of perimenopausal and menopausal women report oral discomfort of some kind. But many of us don’t realize that this lesser-known symptom is related to hormonal changes in our bodies.
In this post, we’ll explore the link between dry mouth and menopause. We’ll examine why it happens, its most effective treatments, and the remedies to stop the problem in its tracks.
Can Menopause Cause Dry Mouth?
When most people think about menopause, they think about symptoms like hot flashes, mood swings, and insomnia. But many women are surprised when they discover their dry mouth is also due to fluctuating hormones during menopause.
Dry mouth, or xerostomia, can affect anyone at any age. But during menopause, you have a much higher chance of developing the condition.
That’s because estrogen helps to regulate saliva production. When estrogen begins to drop off during perimenopause, our salivary glands stop functioning as they once did. And the result is a dry mouth.
What Are the Implications of Dry Mouth?
Dry mouth can be annoying and uncomfortable, but it can also lead to more serious problems. Saliva helps to cleanse our teeth and fight off germs. It also contains essential minerals that protect the enamel on our teeth.
So, less saliva means fewer of these mouth-friendly benefits.
Chronic dry mouth during menopause can lead to an increased risk of cavities and bad breath. So, while mild dry mouth might not seem like a big deal, if it’s happening regularly, it’s important to nip it in the bud before it causes other issues.
What Are the Signs of Menopause-Related Dry Mouth?
Dry mouth is uncomfortable, and if you’re suffering from this menopausal side effect, it’s very likely you’ll know about it.
But alongside a dry feeling in the mouth, there are other telltale signs to look out for, including:
- Chapped or cracked lips
- A persistent sore throat
- Pain in the mouth and/or tongue
- Persistent thirst
- Tooth cavities
How to Find Relief From Menopause-Related Dry Mouth
Persistent dry mouth can have a knock-on effect on your oral health and cause a myriad of issues if it’s left unchecked.
So, if you’re noticing your mouth is parched more often during menopause, try these expert-approved tips to find relief.
This is the most obvious and important tip when it comes to treating the symptoms of dry mouth. Even mild dehydration can cause a lack of saliva.
Experts recommend that women drink 2.7 liters (around 95 fl oz) of water every day. To help you meet this target, carry a water bottle with you wherever you go, and take regular sips. For a longer-lasting hit of moisture, suck on an ice cube.
Get your salivary glands flowing by chewing some gum. The act of chewing triggers your brain to release saliva. Sucking on a lozenge, mint, or candy can also achieve the same result. Always opt for sugar-free gums and candies, as excess sugar can put you at an even higher risk of cavities.
Watch What You Eat
If you’re suffering from a bout of dry mouth, avoid the following foods:
- Salt: Salt and salty foods will only exacerbate dryness and make the problem worse.
- Vinegar: Vinegar and other acidic foods can irritate your mouth if saliva production is low.
- Spice: If you’re low on saliva, spicy foods can harm your mouth and feel more painful to eat than usual.
- Dry foods: Foods with very little water content can make dry mouth worse. Avoid peanut butter, crackers, toast, and dehydrated foods such as jerky.
- Sugar: Saliva protects your teeth from cavities. So, when you’re not making enough of it, you’re more vulnerable to decay. Cut back on your sugar intake, and be sure to brush regularly.
Smoking is a leading cause of dry mouth, and it can make existing symptoms much worse. One study has shown that 37% of smokers experience regular symptoms of dry mouth, compared with just 13% of non-smokers.
Alcohol is a diuretic, and consuming too much can leave you dehydrated.
One study published in the Japanese Dental Science Review demonstrated that regular drinking can decrease the flow of salvia, directly causing dry mouth.
Alcohol also leaves you feeling thirsty. Plus, it can make other symptoms of dry mouth, such as cracked and chapped lips, much worse.
Practice Breathing Through Your Nose
Did you know that the nose is our innate breathing organ? Breathing through our mouths evaporates the water in our saliva, causing excessive dryness. But breathing through the nose offers a myriad of health benefits, including humidifying and filtering the air before it enters our lungs.
Check Your Medicine Cabinet
Certain medications can cause dry mouth. In fact, according to the Academy of General Dentistry, more than 90% of all cases of dry mouth can be directly linked to medications.
So, what you think is a symptom of menopause could be a side effect of a drug you’ve been prescribed.
Certain types of antihistamines and bronchodilators are common culprits. Check your medicine cabinet, and talk to your doctor to find out if your meds could be causing dry mouth.
Visit Your Dentist
If dry mouth is persistent or severe, visit your dentist. They can conduct a full assessment to find out how dry mouth is impacting your oral health. Then, they can design a treatment plan to help ease the symptoms.
If cavities are an issue, they may prescribe high-strength fluoride toothpaste to better protect your teeth from decay.
In some cases, your doctor may also prescribe medications such as pilocarpine (Salagen) or cevimeline (Evoxac) which increase saliva production. However, these medications come with side effects, so they should only be used as a last resort.
Treat the Root Cause
Menopause-related dry mouth is due to a fluctuation in hormones. So, to treat the underlying cause of the condition, we need to address the hormonal imbalance.
There are plenty of natural approaches that can help, including lifestyle changes such as exercise and eating a healthy diet. Foods rich in phytoestrogens can be particularly beneficial.
Plus, several natural supplements can help to promote hormonal equilibrium as you journey through menopause. Examples include black cohosh, red clover, and maca.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may also help. However, this treatment carries the risk of serious side effects. Plus, its effectiveness for treating menopause-related dry mouth is still unclear. So, it should only be taken after a thorough risk-benefit analysis with your doctor.
Dry mouth is a relatively common symptom of perimenopause and menopause. However, there are multiple other potential causes for dry mouth, including:
Certain autoimmune disorders, such as Sjögren syndrome
Radiation and chemotherapy
If you suspect your dry mouth symptoms are caused by something other than menopause, talk to your doctor.
That depends. The majority of women find that once they’ve passed through perimenopause and officially reached menopause (12 months after the date of their final period), the symptoms of dry mouth go away. As the body adjusts to a new hormonal balance, many other bothersome symptoms gradually disappear, too.
But in some cases, dry mouth can persist into post-menopause, and continued treatment may be needed.
Some women notice other oral health issues during their menopausal journey, including:
Burning mouth syndrome (BMS): A condition that irritates the soft tissue inside the mouth
Oral thrush: An overgrowth of the naturally occurring candida albicans fungus
Tooth sensitivity: Pain due to a breakdown in the bone density of the teeth
Gum disease: An inflammatory condition that irritates the gums
Looking after your oral health is important, no matter what stage of menopause you’re in. Talk to your doctor or dentist if you’re concerned about any of the conditions above.
Hormonal changes during menopause can affect the way we produce saliva. As a result, some women are left with parched mouths and cracked lips.
It might seem like a relatively mild symptom, but if dry mouth is left untreated, it can lead to a whole host of other issues.
So, if you’re experiencing dry mouth, follow the tips above, and visit your doctor or dentist for an assessment. They can help you to identify the underlying cause and tailor a treatment plan that works for you.
- Oral discomfort at menopause – ScienceDirect
- Saliva and Your Mouth: Function of Saliva in Oral Health (webmd.com)
- How much water should I drink each day? (medicalnewstoday.com)
- Dry mouth – Diagnosis and treatment – Mayo Clinic
- Association of Xerostomia and Assessment of Salivary Flow Using Modified Schirmer Test among Smokers and Healthy Individuals: A Preliminutesary Study – PMC (nih.gov)
- Thirst sensation and oral dryness following alcohol intake – PMC (nih.gov)
- dry-mouth.pdf (jadekimdds.com)