Hot flashes, sleep difficulties, and mood changes are just a few of the common symptoms associated with menopause. But fluctuating hormone levels can also impact some unexpected parts of your body, like your mouth. As your estrogen levels decrease during perimenopause and menopause, you may notice sensitive teeth, painful gums, and other issues.
Some people notice that things taste different during the menopausal transition. You may even develop something called burning mouth syndrome, which is just as unpleasant as it sounds.
Keep reading to learn about the ways menopause may be affecting your mouth and what you can do to find relief.
Regular brushing and flossing, avoiding excess sugar, and getting regular dental cleanings are all ways you can actively protect your oral health. But some things, like hormonal fluctuations, are outside of your control.
In fact, hormonal changes can affect your teeth during several stages of your life. This may happen in the following ways:
- Puberty. Increasing hormones can make you more vulnerable to red, inflamed gums, as well as canker sores.
- Menstruation. During the few days before your period, you may experience gum sensitivity and inflammation, as well as canker sores. Such symptoms tend to subside after your period ends.
- Pregnancy. An influx in hormones may increase your risk of pregnancy gingivitis, especially between months 2 and 8.
- While taking birth control pills. In the past, higher levels of hormones in oral contraceptives increased the risk of gum inflammation. Such risks aren’t as common today, but there is some evidence that having a tooth removed while on birth control could increase your risk of developing a dry socket.
- Menopause. A drop in estrogen can lead to a variety of changes in your mouth, including altered taste, dry mouth, sensitive teeth, and more.
If you regularly experience pain after drinking or eating hot or cold items, you could have tooth sensitivity.
Sensitive teeth develop when the dentin, or inner part of the teeth, lose both their protective enamel and cementum coatings. This leaves the nerves within your teeth vulnerable, which can lead to pain and discomfort when you consume cold, hot, or acidic foods.
Menopausal gingivostomatitis is a menopause-related oral health condition that causes gum inflammation. In addition to gum swelling, you may have noticeably pale, shiny, or deep-red gums. Your gums may also bleed easily, especially when you brush or floss.
Hormonal changes during the menopausal transition can also change the way foods taste to you. For example, you may find yourself bothered by salty, sour, or peppery foods. It’s also possible for food to taste unusually bitter or metallic.
In some cases, menopause-induced taste changes accompany a condition known as burning mouth syndrome (BMS). As the name suggests, BMS causes burning, pain, and tenderness around your mouth area, including the lips, tongue, and cheeks.
Tooth pain during menopause is related to both hormonal and age-related causes, such as thinning mouth tissues, dry mouth, and osteoporosis.
Thinning mouth tissues
As estrogen levels decrease, the oral mucosal epithelium may also decrease in thickness. This can make you more sensitive to pain, as well as more vulnerable to infections in your mouth.
Salivary glands are partially dependent on hormones to continue supporting saliva production and maintain consistency.
Lower levels of estrogen
Other problems associated with dry mouth
While you might associate this age-related condition with thinning bones throughout your body, it’s important not to forget about the bones inside the mouth. In particular, osteoporosis may cause jaw recession, which can decrease the size of your gums and lead to tooth loss.
If you’re experiencing menopause-related tooth changes that are significant and interfering with your overall quality of life, it’s important to reach out to a dentist or doctor to see if treatment can help.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is one possible option that may help alleviate multiple menopausal symptoms. However, not everyone is a good candidate for HRT due to the possibility of serious side effects, such as blood clots.
Still, some research does demonstrate the benefits of HRT for postmenopausal oral health issues. One study of 492 postmenopausal people, compared those who received osteoporosis treatments, such as HRT or supplements, to those who received no treatment.
Researchers found that those who received estrogen treatments for osteoporosis prevention also had a significantly lower risk of developing periodontitis, a severe infection of the gums that may also damage your teeth and jawbone.
If you’re interested in HRT, it’s important to carefully discuss the risks versus benefits with a doctor.
While hormones can contribute to sensitive teeth, other causes may include:
Depending on the underlying cause, sensitive teeth may be treated with corrective dental procedures, such as a root canal or gum grafting. Desensitizing toothpaste can also help alleviate your symptoms.
While hormonal changes can lead to changes in your mouth, problems with your teeth and gums aren’t inevitable.
It’s important to see a dentist if you’re experiencing any unusual changes in your oral health, such as dry mouth, tooth sensitivity, or pain. They may recommend corrective procedures or medications that can help address these issues.
Additionally, your dentist might recommend the following:
- regular cleanings and checkups
twice a year
- brushing your teeth twice daily
- flossing once a day
- using a toothpaste designed for sensitivity to help protect the nerves in your teeth
- over-the-counter moisturizing sprays or rinses to treat dry mouth
- taking calcium or vitamin D supplements if your diet is deficient in these bone-supporting nutrients
Hormone fluctuations — especially a drop in estrogen — can cause a variety of uncomfortable symptoms. While these can impact your mood, sleep quality, and body temperature, menopause may also lead to changes in your mouth.
While some menopause-related oral health changes may cause slight discomfort, others, such as dry mouth, can lead to bigger issues with your teeth and gums.
Protecting your oral health during menopause can lead to better outcomes for gums and teeth as you age, as well as better overall quality of life. If lifestyle modifications and regular oral care don’t help alleviate your symptoms, see a dentist or doctor for possible prescription treatments.