Dry Mouth and Menopause: Causes and Effective Remedies

Last updated 01.08.2024 | by Dr. Karen Pike | 10 Minutes Read

This article has been reviewed and fact checked by Dr. Karen Pike, a senior physician administrator and board-certified emergency room doctor actively working in northern California. Read more at our medical disclaimer page.


Dry mouth, also called xerostomia, is a common symptom of menopause, and over 40% of women report oral discomfort of some kind during this phase of their lives.

But many of us don’t realize that this lesser-known symptom is related to hormonal changes in our bodies. So, it’s important to understand the reasons behind menopause-related dry mouth, so that you can recognize the symptoms and find relief.

When I first entered perimenopause, I began noticing that my mouth was more parched than usual. I was still drinking the same level of fluids, but it felt like no matter how much water I consumed, the dryness persisted.

I also began suffering from cracked and chapped lips, and at first, I had no idea why. It was winter at the time, so I thought perhaps it was related to the cold weather. But then spring arrived, and when my dry mouth and chapped lips continued to bother me, I finally began to connect the dots. I realized that my symptoms were part of the bigger picture of menopause, and the dryness I was experiencing was being driven by fluctuations in estrogen.

So, are you experiencing dry mouth during your menopausal transition? Do you wonder why it’s happening, and what you can do to find relief? This blog post is for you.

Below, I’ll explore the link between dry mouth and menopause. First I’ll examine what causes the symptoms, then I’ll share some effective treatments and 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, myself included, 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

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, when I realized that dry mouth was becoming an issue for me, I began researching the most effective interventions, treatments, and remedies to help alleviate the problem.

And thankfully, after a while, my efforts began to pay off, and I now no longer suffer from the same bothersome dry mouth symptoms I once did.

Here’s what worked for me:

Stay Hydrated

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.

To ensure I meet this target, I carry a water bottle with me wherever I go, and I take regular sips throughout the day. As a busy emergency room doctor, it’s not always easy to find time for extended breaks, but keeping water with me at all times ensures that staying hydrated is part of my daily routine.

Another effective way to tackle dry mouth is to suck on an ice cube. I find this method provides a long lasting hit of moisture and helps to cool me down in the warmer months.

Stimulate saliva

The act of chewing triggers your brain to release saliva. So, to get my salivary glands flowing, I regularly chew gum. If you don’t like gum, sucking on a lozenge, mint, or candy can also achieve the same result.

I prefer to stick to sugar-free gums and candies, as excess sugar further increases the risk of cavities.

Watch What You Eat

When I’m suffering from a bout of dry mouth, I 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.

Quit Smoking

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.

Limit Alcohol

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. I’m not a regular drinker, but when I do have the occasional glass of wine in the evening, I try to make sure I drink an extra glass or two of water before I go to bed. This counteracts the dehydrating effect of alcohol and ensures dry mouth doesn’t strike in the morning.

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.

It took a lot of practice, but I’ve managed to make nose breathing my default, and I’ve noticed a huge improvement in my dry mouth symptoms as a result. One intervention that made a big difference for me was mouth taping. This popular trend involves tapping your mouth closed before you fall asleep at night. This way, you breathe exclusively through your nose, not your mouth. This method has worked well for me, but it’s not for everyone. So, check with your doctor if you’re a suitable candidate before giving it a try.

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. I take a daily soy supplement which provides an extra boost of phytoestrogens. This helps with a wide array of menopause symptoms, including dry mouth.

I’ve also found success with a variety of other natural supplements that promote hormonal equilibrium, including 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.

FAQ’s

Q. What are some other causes of dry mouth?

Dry mouth is a relatively common symptom of perimenopause and menopause. However, there are multiple other potential causes for dry mouth, including:
• Dehydration
• Anxiety disorder
• Diabetes
• Certain autoimmune disorders, such as Sjögren syndrome
• Stress
• Certain medications
• Radiation and chemotherapy
• Smoking
• Drug use
• Overexertion
If you suspect your dry mouth symptoms are caused by something other than menopause, talk to your doctor.

Q. How long does menopause-related dry mouth last?

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. This has certainly been the case for me, and as my body has adjusted to a new hormonal balance, many of my other bothersome menopause symptoms have gradually disappeared, too. However, in some cases, dry mouth can persist into post-menopause, and continued treatment may be needed.

Q. Are there any other menopause-related mouth conditions I should know about?

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.

Conclusion

Hormonal changes during menopause can affect the way we produce saliva. As a result, some women, myself included, 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.

References:

Author

  • Dr. Karen Pike

    Dr. Pike is a senior physician administrator and board-certified emergency room doctor actively working in northern California. She received her undergraduate degree at Dartmouth College, where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa and played collegiate soccer. She attended Georgetown University for medical school and performed her residency in emergency medicine at Stanford University. She was part of the first-ever, women-majority emergency medicine program in United States. Dr. Pike is also the primary medical consultant for “Grey’s Anatomy,” a role she has held since the pilot episode when she partnered with Shonda Rhimes as the show’s original medical consultant. At her hospital, she was the second woman Chief of Staff. Today serves as the Director of the Emergency Department. Whether in leadership or direct patient care, her dedication to excellence in communication, quality, and collaboration is unwavering.