Menopause and dry mouth
If you are suffering from a dry mouth, cracked lips, or sore throat, it could be due to menopause. These might not seem like obvious menopause symptoms but they are quite common. Read on to find out why dry mouth during menopause happens, what helps, and when to seek help.
DRY MOUTH DEFINITION
Dry mouth, known as xerostomia, is thought to be triggered by the decrease in estrogen levels that happens during menopause. It can feel like a constant sore and dry feeling in your mouth and throat.
It’s also associated with a decrease in saliva production and may be associated with burning mouth syndrome for some people, as well as dental complications like accelerated tooth decay, sensitive teeth, bad breath, and bleeding gums.
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HOW LIKELY IS DRY MOUTH DURING MENOPAUSE?
- We don’t know for certain as data is limited, although one older study found that 43% of those who are perimenopausal and menopausal reported oral discomfort
- Research shows that dry mouth occurs as a result of the declining estrogen levels that occur during menopause. Reduced levels of estrogen lead to a decrease in blood flow to salivary glands, less saliva production, and therefore dry mouth
- Research draws a clear link between smoking and reduced rates of saliva production, increasing your risk of experiencing dry mouth
- Lifestyle choices can have an impact, for example, as drinking alcohol and caffeine can increase your chances of dry mouth
- Other disorders, like anxiety, can cause dry mouth. Read more about the link between menopause and anxiety
- According to Healthline, more than 90% of dry mouth cases are caused by medication, such as antihistamines, antihypertensives, hormone medications, and bronchodilators. It is important not to stop any medications without talking to your healthcare provider first
- Other medical treatments, including radiotherapy, can also cause dry mouth
Read more about the stages of menopause.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF A DRY MOUTH?
A painful or dry sensation in the mouth
Sore throat or cracked lips
A persistent feeling of thirst
How to help with a dry mouth during menopause
Limit drinking alcohol, tea, and coffee
Alcohol, caffeine and the tannins in tea and coffee can make dry mouth symptoms worse.
Studies show that long-term smoking affects your saliva production, which could potentially worsen dry mouth symptoms.
Breathe through your nose, not your mouth
That sounds like strange advice but according to Healthline, breathing through your mouth can make your dry mouth worse. This is because airflow dries the delicate tissues of the mouth. Certain medical conditions can make it more difficult or even impossible to breathe through your nose. Talk to your healthcare provider if you think this could be the case for you.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, dehydration is a contributing factor when it comes to dry mouth. Drinking plenty of water is key and can help to relieve mild dehydration that is associated with dry mouth.
Keep brushing and flossing your teeth – it can help combat the effects of a dry mouth. Be sure to check in with your dentist regularly and flag any concerns at your appointments.
Try sugar-free sweets or chewing gum
This helps stimulate the production of saliva. You can also try sucking ice chips or partially frozen fruit, including melon and pineapple.
Look after your lips
Dry mouth can cause your lips to become cracked or uncomfortable. Regular use of a safe moisture barrier for your lips such as petroleum jelly can help to keep the skin in good condition.
Can hormone therapy (HT) help?
Research on the risks and benefits of HT for people with dry mouth during menopause is currently unclear.
HT is not suitable for everyone. Speak to your healthcare provider if you would like to find out more about the best treatment for you.