During menopause, many women suffer from dry mouth, a symptom that’s exactly what it sounds like: having a sticky, dry feeling in the mouth. While everyone has a dry mouth once in a while from being nervous or stressed out, dry mouth in middle-aged or older women is likely brought on by a change in hormone levels. The condition may cause trouble chewing, tasting or speaking, and though these symptoms sound alarming, rest assured that they can often be alleviated.
Explaining dry mouth
As a woman enters menopause, her body’s endocrine system undergoes a dramatic shift that results in a drop in estrogen and progesterone, according to health experts. These fluctuating hormone levels impact the salivary glands, often leaving menopausal and postmenopausal women with a persistent feeling of dryness in the mouth.
In all its forms, dry mouth is triggered by the lack of saliva. Saliva plays a bigger role in oral hygiene than you might think, as it works to moisten our mouths and wash away food debris from meals. Think of it as a natural cleansing agent – controlling bacteria and protecting the teeth against plaque buildup.
Yet without enough saliva, the mouth turns into a breeding ground for bacteria. Not only can dry mouth cause discomfort along with bad breath, it can also increase your risk for gingivitis (gum disease), tooth decay and other mouth infections, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. What’s more, your body might not be getting the nutrients it needs if you cannot chew and swallow certain foods properly.
According to a study from the National Institute of Health, roughly 20 percent of people experience dry mouth, medically known as xerostamia. In menopausal women, estrogen levels fall and, in turn, reduce the moisture in the mucus membranes lining the mouth and nose.
Burning mouth syndrome
Some people complain of burning in the mouth too, since the nerve endings become more sensitive. Menopause may also lead to burning mouth syndrome (BMS), a frustrating condition that results in a burning sensation in the tongue, lips and mouth. While it is a very rare problem, the main demographic who grapples with it is middle-aged to older women.