Oral health and menopause

May 16, 2023

Any time a woman experiences significant changes in hormone levels, her oral health is affected. This may happen at many points throughout life, including during puberty, pregnancy, the monthly cycle, when taking birth control pills, and finally, during menopause, which typically begins between the ages of 45 and 55. 

There’s a lot of normal variation in how menopause impacts people. Many find it lasts about seven years, but some people experience it for twice as long. Some people’s symptoms are mild, and others find their symptoms are severe. No matter how menopause affects you, understanding how it works can help you identify changes as they’re occurring, take better care of yourself, and know when to see a dentist or a doctor.  

Read on to find out more about how menopause affects your teeth and gums. 

Why oral health changes during menopause 


During menopause and the period of time leading up to it (called perimenopause), women’s bodies begin producing less of the hormones estrogen and progesterone. These fluctuations can have many side effects, some of which impact the mouth.  

How Menopause changes your mouth 


Dry Mouth 

Changing hormones can make your mouth create less saliva, which leaves your mouth feeling more dry than normal. The official term of dry mouth is xerostomia. In addition to feeling uncomfortable, dry mouth can affect your lifestyle and health. Saliva plays an important role in your mouth, helping you break down food and swallow. So, if you don’t have enough of it, you may have a harder time eating. 

Saliva also helps wash out bacteria in your mouth, so if you have less of it, germs may build up on your teeth and gums. This makes you more vulnerable to tooth decay and gingivitis (the technical term for early-stage gum disease). Other symptoms of dry mouth can include sensitive gums and mouth ulcers. 

Tell your dentist if your mouth feels unusually dry. They may want to evaluate you to determine whether you need treatment. 

Gum Disease 

Women going through menopause are more susceptible to gingivitis, which can make your gums swollen and red. Your gums may also bleed when you’re brushing or flossing. When gum disease goes untreated, it can worsen to an advanced stage called  periodontitis. Periodontitis is a serious condition that can lead to teeth becoming loose and even falling out. It’s also common, and the likelihood of having it increases with age for both men and women. 

Your dentist should check for signs of gum disease at your routine checkups, which is a good reason to keep up with regular appointments once or twice a year (or more often, if directed by a dentist).  

However, if you notice signs of gingivitis yourself, you should see a dentist earlier.  

  • Are your gums swollen, sensitive, tender, or bleeding easily?  

  • Does it hurt to chew, brush your teeth, or floss? 

  • Are your teeth more sensitive or loose? 

  • Are your teeth more exposed along the edge of your gums? (A sign of gum recession) 

  • Do you have persistent bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth? 

  • Is there any change in your bite? 

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you should tell your dentist. All these symptoms could be signs of gum disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control. 


During and after menopause, women are more likely to develop osteoporosis -- a disease of the bones that can result in fractures. Why this happens: estrogen protects bone density, so the drop in estrogen levels during menopause can contribute to bone loss throughout your body – including your jawbone and teeth. Some people lose a full quarter of their bone mass in the first decade after menopause. Bone loss of the jaw can also contribute to gum disease when it leads to receding gums. 

Other changes to oral health during menopause 

  • Some people find that food tastes different during menopause. For example, a dish you used to like may now taste bitter or strange.  

  • Menopause can cause some people to have bad breath. 

  • A small percentage of people also experience Burning Mouth Syndrome (BMA), which is the medical term for a burning sensation in the mouth with no clear cause. 

How to help your oral health during menopause 


The basic tenants of dental care are especially important during periods of hormonal fluctuation: 

  • Brush your teeth with fluoride-based toothpaste and floss every day. 

  • See a dentist for a routine checkup at least once or twice per year. 

In addition, maintaining a healthy lifestyle can lower your risk of developing osteoporosis and improve your overall oral health. 

  • Get regular exercise, which helps maintain bone density. 

  • Eat foods that contain calcium, such as spinach, kale, and dairy products. It’s recommended that adult women consume 1,000-1,200 mg per day of calcium. It’s also recommended to consume 600-800 IU of Vitamin D per day, which you can find in foods such as salmon and egg yolks. 

  • Avoid smoking, which raises your risk of broken bones. 

  • Avoid alcohol, or limit yourself to one alcoholic drink per day, as long-term heavy drinking can cause bone loss. 

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can be used to boost hormone levels, which may help relieve menopause symptoms. However, the side effects can be serious in some cases. If you’re interested in seeking out this therapy, talk to a healthcare provider and give them a full picture of your health (beyond teeth and gums), including any other drugs or treatments you take. 

Some studies have suggested that people who received estrogen treatments for osteoporosis prevention, including HRT, saw some benefits. However, more research is needed to understand this treatment.