Menopause is often associated with symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, and irritability. But its wide-reaching effects on the body don’t stop there.
There are a number of lesser-known symptoms you may not readily attribute to menopause. Oral-dental complications, for example,
Decreasing hormone levels can have a negative impact on overall bone density — including the bones that surround and support your teeth — and affect blood flow to your gums.
This can lead to bleeding and receding gums, loose teeth, and cavities, among other oral health conditions.
BMS is characterized by a burning sensation of the oral mucosa. The soft tissue inside the mouth may also tingle or feel hot, tender, or numb.
Although the sensation can involve multiple parts of the mouth — including the lips, palate, and border of the tongue — it primarily affects the tip of the tongue.
Symptoms may develop gradually or occur spontaneously. It could start as a tingle or come on strongly.
BMS can be
- Type 1: You may experience no or low intensity pain upon waking up, but the pain quickly picks up after your first meal and continues throughout the day, reaching its maximum threshold by late evening.
- Type 2: You may have constant pain that’s present day and night. You may wake up at night from the pain associated with BMS. People who experience this type of BMS can become very anxious.
- Type 3: You may notice intermittent bouts of pain with some pain-free intervals. If you have any food sensitivities, allergies, or intolerances, take care to limit or avoid these foods during this time. Your diet may exacerbate feelings of pain and discomfort.
The condition may or may not affect your taste buds or salivary glands.
Your options for treatment ultimately depend on whether a second, underlying condition may be behind your symptoms. If you’re experiencing a nutritional deficiency, for example, taking supplements or modifying your diet may help relieve your symptoms.
In the case of menopause-related BMS, some clinicians may recommend hormone replacement treatment (HRT), though it’s unclear how effective this is.
More research is needed to understand and definitively treat BMS that occurs with no known cause. You may need to try multiple treatment options to develop an effective care plan for your symptoms.
A doctor or other healthcare professional may recommend:
- tricyclic antidepressant medications, such as amitriptyline (Elavil) and nortriptyline (Pamelor)
- sedative medications, such as clonazepam (Klonopin) and chlordiazepoxide (Librium)
- anticonvulsant medications, such as gabapentin (Neurontin)
Home remedies for BMS are limited.
Some people have found success by applying capsaicin directly to the affected site. Capsaicin can help manage neuropathic pain by desensitizing the area of the stimuli.
You can find this spicy agent in pepper sauce, vitamin capsules, and other topical solutions.
Oral thrush is a fungal infection caused by the overgrowth of Candida albicans. This naturally occurring fungus is found in the body and on the surface of the skin.
Fluctuating hormone levels can affect the level of Candida albicans present, potentially resulting in an overgrowth.
White patches will appear inside the mouth, primarily on the tongue and cheeks.
You may also experience:
- raised sores with a cottage cheese–like appearance
- burning or sore throat
- difficulty swallowing
- redness in and around the mouth
- cracking in the corners of your mouth
- loss of taste
Thrush typically subsides on its own in 1 to 2 weeks. To manage your symptoms at home:
- Rinse with warm saltwater as often as needed.
- Brush and floss at least once a day.
- Frequently replace your toothbrush until your symptoms resolve.
If you don’t see any improvement or your symptoms worsen, consult with a doctor or other healthcare professional.
They may prescribe topical or oral antifungal medication, including:
- lozenges, which are dissolved slowly in the mouth, containing clotrimazole
- liquid solutions, which you swirl around your mouth and then swallow, like nystatin, itraconazole (Sporanox), and posaconazole (Noxafil)
- tablets, which are swallowed, like fluconazole (Diflucan)
With treatment, oral thrush should clear up within 2 weeks.
Dry mouth occurs when your body doesn’t make enough saliva.
A dry mouth may feel sticky or tingly, as though your mouth is burning. You may also experience halitosis (commonly called “bad breath”), cracked lips, or mouth sores.
Dry mouth can make chewing, swallowing, and even talking more difficult if left untreated.
In addition to breaking down the food you eat, saliva helps maintain the level of healthy bacteria in your mouth.
Menopause can change the composition of your saliva. This change in composition can interfere with your mouth’s microbiome,
The following may also contribute to dry mouth:
- snoring or breathing with your mouth open
- drinking alcohol
- smoking cigarettes, vaping nicotine, and using other tobacco products
- certain medication side effects, including antidepressants, antihistamines, and decongestants
- cancer treatments, including chemotherapy drugs and radiation
- other health conditions, such as diabetes, stroke, and Alzheimer’s disease
- nerve damage in your head or neck area
You can occasionally manage dry mouth with home remedies, like:
- increasing your water intake
- temporarily limiting or avoiding spicy and salty foods
- swapping drinks with caffeine, which acts as a diuretic, for sugar-free alternatives
- chewing sugar-free gum or sucking on sugar-free hard candies
- using a humidifier to add moisture to the air in your living or working space
If dry mouth happens frequently, or you suspect it may be the result of another health condition or treatment, consult a doctor or other healthcare professional. They may be able to adjust your care plan or prescribe medication that stimulates saliva production.
Decreasing estrogen levels can cause the lining of the mouth to thin, making it more susceptible to injury. This may also contribute to an uptick in pain sensitivity.
Similarly, the bones in your mouth can become more fragile during this transition.
According to the Endocrine Society, estrogen slows the natural breakdown of bone in the body. When estrogen levels decline, overall bone loss increases.
Compromised bone density in the mouth could lead to loose teeth, tooth decay, and ultimately tooth loss.
The protective enamel on your teeth can also lose its integrity. If left untreated, the nerves inside your teeth may become exposed over time.
This can cause pain and discomfort, particularly when consuming hot, cold, or acidic foods and beverages.
Occasional sensitivity may not be cause for concern. If the pain persists, it’s important to visit a dentist. They can inspect your teeth and determine whether there’s a cut, cavity, loose filling, or other underlying cause.
Alternating between fluoride toothpaste and desensitizing toothpaste can help soothe pain in the interim. If you prefer acidic beverages, such as carbonated water, using a straw can minimize contact with your teeth.
Your taste buds detect and categorize flavors as you chew your food.
Although changes in taste may naturally happen as you age, menopause-related symptoms, like decreased saliva and drier oral tissue, can also change or reduce the sensation of taste.
Some people notice they have a metallic, bitter, or salty taste in their mouth, even when they’re not eating or drinking anything that could have caused it.
You may find that using plastic or bamboo utensils and glass or ceramic cookware can help minimize metallic tastes.
Adding honey, sugar, or another sweetener can help minimize bitter or sour tastes. To minimize sweet tastes, consider adding lemon, lime, vinegar, or other acidic flavors to your food.
You can also play around with different herbs, spices, marinades, and condiments to improve the flavor.
If you’re concerned about recent or unexpected changes in taste, consult a doctor or other healthcare professional.
They can assess your symptoms and determine whether these changes are related to menopause, side effects of a medication you may be taking, or a sign of another underlying condition or illness.
Menopausal gingivostomatitis is an oral health condition that causes gum inflammation.
Gums may be deep red or noticeably pale, appear dry or shiny, and bleed easily during brushing or flossing. Lesions that resemble canker sores may also be present in the mouth.
Gingivitis is another possible culprit. It usually develops from poor habits around tooth brushing and flossing.
A mild form of gum disease, gingivitis is characterized by irritation, redness, and swelling in the tissue around the base of your teeth. The gums may begin to recede, exposing more of your tooth.
If left untreated, either condition can lead to a gum infection called periodontitis and tooth loss.
Brushing at least twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush, flossing at least once a day, and using a therapeutic mouthwash can help reverse and prevent future gingivostomatitis and gingivitis.
Visiting a dentist at least once a year, if possible, to get a professional cleaning can also help.
Taking care of your teeth and gums is the best way to prevent future discomfort.
You can do this by:
- brushing at least twice a day, especially after eating, with a soft-bristled toothbrush
- flossing at least once a day
- rinsing your mouth as directed with a medicated wash targeting your needs
- replacing your toothbrush or brush head at least once every 3 to 4 months
- disinfecting partials, retainers, dentures, and other dental instruments on a routine basis
If you experience frequent mouth sores or sensitivity, you may find certain dietary changes beneficial.
Spicy, salty, and sour foods, for example, are common triggers for mouth pain and discomfort. Limiting or avoiding these may help prevent pain and discomfort.
Logging your symptoms in a journal or a notes app on your phone can help you identify your food or beverage triggers. Be sure to include how your mouth feels and what you were eating or drinking before your symptoms began.
Visit a licensed dentist for regular teeth cleaning and examinations. They may recommend cleanings once every 4 months, 6 months, or yearly.
If you have dental insurance or Medicaid, your plan may partially or fully cover the cost of one to two cleanings per calendar year.
Patient assistance programs are often available for people who are uninsured or underinsured (you have some, but not great, dental coverage). State-funded clinics may also offer free or lower cost dental care.
If mouth pain and discomfort interfere with your quality of life, it’s important to consult a dentist or other healthcare professional.
They can review your symptoms and, if appropriate, make a diagnosis.
If you have difficulty swallowing, a loose or cracked tooth, or severe bleeding, don’t wait. The sooner you get care, the less likely you are to develop additional complications.
Catasha Gordon is a sexuality educator from Spencer, Oklahoma. She’s the owner and founder of Expression Over Repression, a company built around sexual expression and knowledge. You can typically find her creating sex education materials or building some kinky hardware in a fresh set of coffin nails. She enjoys catfish (tail on), gardening, eating off her husband’s plate, and Beyoncé. Follow her everywhere.