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ABC’s of Menopause: Dry Mouth

Everything You Need to Know & How To Take Back Control.

Mia West
January 5, 2024
Medically-reviewed and fact checked by Ryan Lester, PA-C

Menopause is the “gift” that keeps on giving. With 34 associated symptoms that can easily be ascribed to a myriad of other health conditions, it can be impossible to know if what you’re experiencing is tied to menopause without a hormone test. Each week this series will break down symptoms to empower women to take back control of their health and enjoy some relief.

Dry mouth, often referred to as cottonmouth or Xerostomia which is its medical term, is yet another one of the many bizarre and baffling menopausal symptoms women face. There’s even a Reddit thread dedicated to the issue where women express confusion with many asking, “This is a menopause thing?” Or, they share their annoyance with the neverending list of challenges, “Everything dries up: mouth, eyes, vagina, skin.” While the thread offers some hilarious commentary, one member brings up an interesting question - does dry mouth lead to chronic issues? 

Saliva plays a vital role in oral health, aiding in digestion, preventing infections, and maintaining the balance of the oral microbiome. So, while dry mouth may feel like an uncomfortable inconvenience, this article will explain why this is something to pay close attention to.

What Causes Dry Mouth for Menopausal Women?

Estrogen and progesterone, hormones central to various bodily functions, including saliva production, experience significant declines during menopause. This can result in decreased saliva flow, contributing to the discomfort of dry mouth which ranges from mild to disruptive. This includes dryness or stickiness in your mouth, thick and stringy saliva, bad breath, difficulty chewing, speaking, and swallowing, along with a dry or sore throat, hoarseness, a dry or grooved tongue and altered taste perception.

Dry mouth can also be a contributor to the development of chronic diseases by impacting oral health and overall well-being. Saliva plays a crucial role in maintaining a healthy oral environment, and when its production is compromised, it can lead to various complications that may have broader health implications. Here are some ways in which dry mouth can be linked to chronic diseases:

  • Tooth Decay & Gum Disease: Saliva helps neutralize acids produced by bacteria and provides minerals that strengthen tooth enamel. Without this, harmful bacteria can grow, potentially leading to periodontal disease, characterized by inflammation and infection of the gums.
  • Chronic Inflammation: Oral health is interconnected with overall health, and prolonged systemic inflammation is associated with various chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
  • Immunity: The oral cavity is a crucial part of the immune system. A compromised oral environment may impact the body's ability to defend against infections and contribute to a weakened immune response.

How Do I Know if My Dry Mouth is Menopause Related?

Pinpointing menopause as the cause of dry mouth requires consultation with a healthcare professional. The overlapping symptoms with other health conditions makes a diagnosis challenging without expert guidance or hormonal testing. 

What Else Causes Dry Mouth?

Several other factors can contribute to this oral discomfort including:

  • Medications: Certain medications, including those for allergies, high blood pressure, and antidepressants, can induce dry mouth as a side effect.
  • Dehydration: Inadequate fluid intake can exacerbate dry mouth, making hydration practices essential.
  • Smoking: Tobacco use, common among menopausal women, can intensify dry mouth symptoms.
  • Underlying Medical Conditions: Conditions such as diabetes and Sjögren's syndrome may coexist, exacerbating dry mouth symptoms.

What Are My Treatment Options?

To start, if dry mouth is determined to be related to menopause, the most effective treatment is Hormone Replacement Therapy which will restore estrogen and progesterone balance to alleviate symptoms and promote overall oral and bone health. Other common tactics to manage dry mouth include:

  • Hydration: Ensuring adequate fluid intake, especially water, supports saliva production and helps combat dry mouth.
  • Oral Hygiene Practices: Maintaining diligent oral care, including regular brushing, flossing, and using alcohol-free mouthwash.
  • Sugar-Free Gum or Candy: Chewing sugar-free gum or sucking on sugar-free candy stimulates saliva flow, providing relief from dry mouth symptoms.
  • Humidifiers: Using a humidifier in your living space can alleviate dry mouth, particularly during sleep.

When Should I See A Doctor?

Those experiencing persistent dry mouth should seek the advice of a healthcare professional right away to prevent chronic disease in the future. A dentist or oral health specialist can assess your oral health and recommend tailored interventions to manage dry mouth symptoms effectively.

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About the Author

Mia West

A former journalist, Mia brings a high energy approach to communications rooted in insights, culture and brand DNA. She is driven by helping brands crystalize their story and foster meaningful, emotional connections with audiences. Over the years she has collaborated with prominent brands such as Petco, Keurig Dr Pepper, Jaguar Land Rover, Revlon, and Procter & Gamble Beauty, as well as many others in the retail, health & wellness, beauty, lifestyle, and sustainability realms. A California native, she lives in San Diego with her family at the beach.

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