Sore gums. Burning sensations. Dry mouth. All of these can result from the hormonal changes of perimenopause and menopause. Annoying enough on their own, they can also contribute to periodontal disease, so let’s talk menopause and dry mouth.
During perimenopause, things just start to get drier: eyes, mouths, skin, hair, vaginas, sense of humor….
Estrogen – and this one surprised even us – plays a very important role in the creation of saliva, and the lack of it in perimenopause and menopause can trigger a feeling of scalding, burning, numbness, itch or stickiness in the mouth or a metallic taste and increased thirst.
We already know that fluctuations in estrogen levels can impact our sense of taste partly due to lack of moisture; in more severe cases, xerostomia (dry mouth) can even make it difficult to swallow or speak.
If your mouth chronically feels dry, or if it gets progressively worse during the day, you should probably take steps to combat the problem.
Saliva, even more than your toothbrush, is your first and best line of defense against tooth decay. The film of saliva that coats your mouth protects your teeth against bacteria. It helps pass food along so it doesn’t sit in your mouth, attacking your teeth. It neutralizes acids that can break down tooth enamel and even brings in minerals to rebuild enamel.
Not only can insufficient saliva promote tooth decay, it can make it hard to break down food and increase the chance of infections like thrush. The less saliva you have, the less healthy your mouth is likely to be (and possibly, the worse your breath). And if it’s affecting your ability to access the nutrients in your food, the downstream affects can be even more severe.
First, you need to be sure you’re dealing with a perimenopause or menopause issue. Dry mouth can also be caused by Sjögren’s syndrome, diabetes, and several medications, including sedatives, heart medications, asthma and allergy meds, and antidepressants. Check with a doc to determine you’re not facing any of these other issues.
Burning mouth can also be caused by vitamin deficiencies as well as gastric acid reflux and anemia, so it’s good to check for those as well (here's some tips to find safe vitamins). Plus, as we age, we can become more sensitive to substances or chemicals, so a change of toothpaste or mouthwash may be in order.
If hormonal changes are the culprit, lifestyle changes can make a big difference:
If you need help getting rid of dry mouth, a menopause-certified health coach can be helpful. Book 30 minutes for your personal consultation with a Gennev Provider.
According to a Penn State University study, smiling makes you seem more likeable, even more competent. Smiles are contagious, lifting everyone’s spirits (seriously, there’s science). Smiling a lot can actually rewire your brain to be more positive more often, turning positivity into your default response. And that can make you less stressed and more successful.
Perimenopause and menopause can be plenty challenging, so preserve your smile and your sanity! If you’re experiencing dry mouth, check with a doc or dentist, then make some changes, if necessary.
If you’ve dealt with oral issues as a result of perimenopause or menopause, what did you do about it? You know the drill – share the details with the community by leaving us a comment below, or talking to us on our Facebook page or in Midlife & Menopause Solutions, our closed Facebook group.