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Mouth problems at menopause

Burning mouth, dry mouth, inflamed gums… why is it so common to get new mouth problems at menopause?

By Sally Stankovic and Dr Kelly Teagle

If it seems like oral health issues have come out of nowhere and you’re going through perimenopause and menopause, you’re not alone. For many of us, oral health issues are yet another symptom of this change.

During perimenopause and menopause our estrogen levels start decreasing, and we experience changes in our hormones. These changes can be felt as physical (muscular & joint pain/fatigue/difficulty sleeping/headaches) or psychological (anxiety/ depression/ moodiness/ brain fog).

How does Menopause Effect the Mouth?

Estrogen plays a role in maintaining oral tissues. Its decline can lead to oral discomfort, including a burning sensation in the mouth commonly known as Burning Mouth Syndrome. BMS can impact the tongue, lips, and palate, making daily activities like eating and speaking uncomfortable. As its name suggests, it is a sensation of burning in the mouth.

Estrogen deficiency can also contribute to bone loss, affecting the jawbone and potentially leading to dental issues. This bone loss may increase the risk of periodontal disease, impacting the gums and teeth. Inflammation of the gums and teeth may potentially lead to tooth decay and even loss.

Gingivostomatitis is the inflammation of the mouth and gums. This is what generally causes bleeding gums and changes in gum colour – sometimes they can appear pale, at other times a deep red. You may even notice your gums shrinking away from the teeth.

Dry mouth is another common symptom during menopause, and can exacerbate these problems by reducing saliva flow, which normally helps cleanse the mouth and neutralise acids.

Gum health is often taken for granted but it is more important than people realise. Research shows it has been linked to cardiovascular disease. Around menopause, it is especially important to get proactive around prevention when it comes to the health of your gums.

What can I do about Mouth Problems at Menopause?

  • Maintain good oral hygiene practices including brushing and flossing twice daily, to remove plaque build-up.
  • See your dentist for regular check-ups.
  • Quit smoking! It’s a huge risk factor for mouth, throat, lung and other cancers.
  • Drink water. Not only does this hydrate the mouth and counteract dry mouth symptoms, it rinses away bacterial build up.
  • Minimise sugary foods and drinks that lead to decay.
  • Special mouthwashes such as Biotene are available over the counter from the chemist which add a lubricating protective film to mouth tissues.
  • Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may be considered to address hormonal imbalances and alleviate oral discomfort.

As you can see, mouth problems at menopause and perimenopause are more common than you might have thought but there are definitely things that can help. Always discuss with your health practitioner and get a mouth checkup to be sure of the diagnosis though, as there are more serious conditions that might be overlooked.


Check out this excellent article for more information: Menopause and Oral Health

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