Skip to main content

Menopause and your oral health

Menopause and your oral health

Hot flashes. Night sweats. Mood swings.

Most of us have heard about these and other common symptoms of menopause. But far fewer of us ever stop to think about the effect menopause can have on oral health.

Staying informed and taking steps to protect your teeth are of utmost importance for women during this stage of life.

What is menopause?

Menopause is defined as the point in time 12 months after a woman's last menstrual period. It typically begins between the ages of 45 and 55 and lasts about seven years, but it can last as long as 14.

“Menopause” is often used as a blanket term, but the transition is technically divided into three phases:

  • Perimenopause. The years leading up to menopause during which women are likely to first notice changes in their monthly cycles, hot flashes or other symptoms.
  • Menopause. Confirmed after 12 months without a period. The ovaries stop releasing eggs, and a woman can no longer become pregnant.
  • Postmenopause. The menopausal transition’s final phase, from 12 months after a woman’s last period onward.

More than 1 million women in the U.S. experience menopause each year. It’s estimated that worldwide, 1.1 billion women will be postmenopausal by 2025.

Menopause and overall health

Menopause affects different women differently. Decreased levels of the hormone estrogen and other changes lead to a wide variety of symptoms.

“Because menopause isn’t just one moment in time, the experience can really range,” says Dr. Karen Horace, Delta Dental’s Dental Policy Manager. “The key is paying attention to your body.” Some women experience only mild symptoms of menopause, while others’ symptoms can be more intense.

Some of the most common signs and symptoms of menopause include:

  • Changes in menstrual period. The onset of menopause is marked by changes to the regularity, duration and amount of blood flow during menstruation.
  • Hot flashes. Many menopausal women experience hot flashes or sudden feelings of heat in the upper part or all over the body, likely caused by changes in estrogen levels.
  • Changes in sleeping patterns. Restlessness at night, awakening early in the morning and night sweats can make getting a good night’s rest challenging during the menopausal transition.
  • Vaginal dryness. After menopause, the vagina may become drier, making sex more uncomfortable.
  • Mood swings. Many women feel moodier during the menopausal transition. Increased stress, depression, decreased sex drive and anxiety are common experiences.
  • ·Other changes. Menopause can bring about changes to body weight and size, aches and pains to the joints and muscles, headaches, heart palpitations and other issues.

If you’re experiencing symptoms of menopause, be sure to discuss your experiences, your medical history and any treatment preferences with your physician.

More menopause resources

To learn more about menopause, check out the following resources:

  • My Menoplan. An online resource from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) designed to help women learn more about the many symptoms of menopause and help them create a personalized treatment plan.
  • Midday. A science-backed app developed in collaboration with the Mayo Clinic that provides end-to-end management of your menopause journey.
  • A website offering a wide array of menopause-related articles, information and resources from the Office of Women’s Health.

So how does menopause affect oral health?

Dental health and hygiene become a concern as women get older. Your dentist may be the first person to notice changes related to menopause because symptoms of overall bodily changes often appear first in the mouth.

Here are some of the effects menopause can have on your oral health:

Dry Mouth

Dry mouth, or xerostomia, affects about 25% of menopausal women. Aging across the board results in a decrease in saliva flow, and lower levels of estrogen likewise cause decreased saliva production.

Although the term “dry mouth” may not sound serious, the long-term effects of decreased saliva flow on oral health over time can be devastating. Dry mouth decreases the body's ability to fight off minor infections or maintain a healthy balance of useful and harmful bacteria within the mouth. Painful oral symptoms are frequently associated with reduced saliva, sometimes further aggravated by removable partial dentures. Other potential complications of dry mouth are mouth ulcerations and oral fungal infections.

“Saliva is the natural buffer of your mouth,” says Dr. Horace. “It keeps your mouth healthy. Young people have so much saliva that their teeth are far more protected than adults. The older you are the more likely you are to have dry mouth. On top of that, women experience significant hormone level changes as they age, which increases the likelihood of dry mouth.”

Certain medications, like allergy medications or drugs for osteoporosis, can also impact saliva flow. “The older a person gets the more medications they’re likely on, regardless of gender,” Dr. Horace points out.

Burning mouth

Burning mouth syndrome (BMS), also known as glossodynia or stomatodynia, affects menopausal women seven times more than it affects men.  Burning mouth is described as a burning sensation affecting different areas of the oral cavity, including the tongue, palate, lips and areas of denture support.

Tooth crowding and loss

Menopause affects the density of bones throughout the body, including the jawbone, thereby reducing the stronghold the jaw has on teeth.

Swollen, irritated gums

When your hormone levels change, your gums can get swollen and irritated. During these hormonal changes, your gums may be more susceptible to bleeding, because your body's immune system is more sensitive than usual. This can cause inflammation (redness, swelling and sometimes pain) in the gums.

Tooth decay and gum disease

The many hormonal changes that take place during menopause make the teeth and gums more susceptible to plaque. This leads to a much higher risk for tooth decay, gingivitis (gum inflammation) and advanced gum disease.

Maintaining your oral health during menopause

Here are the keys to maintaining your oral health during menopause:

1.  Step up your oral health care routine at home.

For all menopausal women, practicing adequate oral hygiene is crucial.

“Oral health care should get better with age, not worse,” says Dr. Horace. “The likelihood that you’re going to have tooth decay or a dental issue is always higher the older you are regardless of gender because part of the equation for tooth decay is time.”

To adequately care for your teeth at home:

  • Brush at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste using proper technique, paying extra attention to the gum lines and hard-to-reach areas, and floss at least once daily.
  • Use an antimicrobial mouth wash to reduce the accumulation of dental plaque and help prevent gum disease and tooth decay.

2.  Keep track of your symptoms.

Be aware of the symptoms of menopause and how they can affect your oral health. Dr. Horace emphasizes that watching out for the symptoms of dry mouth is essential to protecting your oral health. Ask yourself:

  • Has the surface of my tongue changed in appearance?
  • Does my tongue appear cracked or dry?
  • Is my tongue dry to the touch?
  • Are my lips sticking to teeth more often?
  • Am I producing less saliva?

Your dental office can do saliva-flow testing to help determine your rate of saliva flow and the best treatment options.

3.  Stay hydrated.

Keeping saliva flowing and the proper pH balance in your mouth is important to oral health. “Drink water or high pH bottled water with nothing else in it,” recommends Dr. Horace. ”Don’t mix in anything like juices, flavors or lemons. Water is the next best thing to saliva. It’s partially about hydration, but it’s also about buffering the oral environment and keeping the pH of your mouth controlled.”

4.  Communicate with your dentist.

Keeping a healthy, youthful-looking mouth during menopause and beyond will depend on clear communication about any symptoms you’re having with your dentist. “If you want your teeth to look young and healthy, you need to be talking to your dentist,” says Dr. Horace.

5.  Maintain a healthy diet.

Consume a balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals, particularly calcium and Vitamin D. Limit alcohol, caffeine, sugary snacks or beverages and overly salty foods.

6.  Consider hormone therapy.

Post-menopausal women who use hormone therapy during menopause have a 24% lower risk of tooth loss than in non-users. Discuss hormone therapy and potential oral health implications with your physician.

7.  Manage stress.

High levels of stress can exacerbate oral health issues. Practice your favorite stress-reduction technique or pick up a new one, such as yoga or meditation, to benefit both your oral health and your overall well-being.

Last updated August 30, 2023

The oral health information on this website is intended for educational purposes only. Always consult a licensed dentist or other qualified health care professional for any questions concerning your oral health.