Nervous or stressed? Then a parched mouth is very common. But if your yapper frequently feels like the Sahara Desert, it might be as a result of the menopause.
A dry mouth and a reduction in the amount of saliva you produce (called xerostomia) can be a symptom of the menopause due to a loss of oestrogen. Your saliva protects your mouth against bacteria, so when you produce less of it, you can be more prone to tooth decay, cavities, receding gums and infections.
Saliva is also needed to break down food into individual chemicals, so it does an important job. Your taste buds detect those chemicals as different flavours. So if you have less saliva and dry mucous membranes, your taste and smell sensation is reduced or changed.
Having a dry mouth can also cause you to have a sore throat and lips, leaving you with frequent thirst and problems with hoarseness. This can result in a burning sensation in the mouth and tongue, also known as burning mouth syndrome.
Remember: the menopause isn’t always responsible for dry mouth. Other causes include dehydration, anxiety, medicine, breathing through your mouth, some cancer treatments and medical conditions – like diabetes.
If you’ve any concerns about dry mouth or changes to your senses of taste and smell, you should speak to your GP. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to help treat dry mouth as a result of the menopause, helping to keep our teeth and gums healthy.
GOOD DENTAL HYGIENE
It’s essential to practice good dental hygiene and see your dentist regularly.
DRINK PLENTY OF FLUIDS
Staying hydrated during the menopause can help lessen the symptoms, so be sure to always have a bottle of water to hand.
Chewing gum can help stimulate the production of salvia in the mouth. And if it’s sugar-free, even better!
ARTIFICIAL SALIVA PASTILLES AND SPRAYS
Pick them up from your local pharmacy.
AVOID CERTAIN FOODS
If you love anything hot, spicy, salty or crunchy foods, we’re sorry to say that it’s best to stay clear of them during the menopause. It’s because certain foods, like these, can leave you feeling dehydrated and irritated. Sugary and acidic foods can also increase the risk of tooth decay.
AVOID ALCOHOL AND CAFFEINE
Both of these can dry out and irritate your mouth. The good news? Herbal or decaffeinated tea and coffee are good alternatives that often help.
Smoking slows down the saliva production so as well as helping with this, stopping could also help improve your overall help. If you would like support with quitting for good, the NHS is a great place to start.
APPLY LIP BALM
Cherry-, strawberry-, or mint-flavoured? Whatever lip balm you choose, it could help keep lips hydrated (a knock-on effect of dry mouth is dry lips), stopping them from cracking and becoming painful and sore.
HORMONE REPLACEMENT THERAPY (HRT)
More studies are needed to find out if HRT can help with a dry mouth. But it’s worth bearing in mind that HRT can effectively treat other symptoms of the menopause.
HINTS AND TIPS FOR THOSE WHO WANT TO SUPPORT SOMEONE THEY THINK MAY BE ENTERING OR IN MENOPAUSE
A dry mouth is rarely a sign of anything serious, and you’ve probably experience it yourself from time to time. However, chronic dry mouth can be uncomfortable and detrimental to their oral health.
Here are some ways you can help and understand them as they cope with this symptom of the menopause.
OUR ADVICE TO THEM
We’ve suggested that they avoid spicy foods and acidic drinks, and use artificial saliva pastilles or sprays.
If they also quit smoking, apply lip balm and practice good dental hygiene among other tips we’ve recommended, then they are doing all the right things relieve a parched mouth.
ASK THEM TO EXPLAIN
Don’t assume you know what the symptom feels like. Gently ask them to explain the effect it is having on them physically and emotionally.
You may not be able to do anything to make them feel better. But they may not want answers, they may just need to talk – and be properly heard. Switch your listening ears on and give them your full attention.
ENCOURAGE THEM TO SPEAK TO PROS
If dry mouth or dental problems have been going on for a while, seem to be getting worse or they are in pain, gently encourage them to talk to their doctor about taking Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT).
HRT can help ease oral health conditions like dry mouth or Burning Mouth Syndrome. You could even offer to go to appointments with them to show your support.
STUB OUT SMOKING
Did you know that if you decide to quit together you are almost six times more likely* to kick nicotine than going it alone?
Help them them goodbye to cigarettes forever by ditching the smokes too. You can then keep each other going, avoid temptation and bash those cravings on the nose.
*Research by the Imperial College London
CREATE A WEEKLY MEAL PLAN
Planning meals ahead is a good way to get an overview of what she’s eating, and it will help them steer clear of triggers too.
Shop for the ingredients together and share the cooking where you can. You could even sign up for a cookery class to learn some new culinary skills.
If you’re worried about dry mouth, you should see your GP who can discuss your symptoms in the context of the menopause.
If you'd like more information, we have put some further references below for you: