Sheryl Kraft, a freelance writer and breast cancer survivor, was born in Long Beach, New York. She currently lives in Connecticut with her husband Alan and dog Chloe, where her nest is empty of her two sons Jonathan. Sheryl writes articles and essays on breast cancer and contributes to a variety of publications and websites where she writes on general health and wellness issues. She earned her MFA in writing from Sarah Lawrence College in 2005.Full Bio
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It seems that ever since menopause hit, so has bad breath. I'm feeling more and more self-conscious whenever I have a conversation with someone, thinking that my breath is offensive. Is it my imagination? Am I crazy? Can bad breath be connected to menopause?
Don't Wanna Have Halitosis
The good news is that it's not your imagination. And you're not crazy.
But I suppose that's the bad news, too.
Menopause and its bearing on your breath is not so different than that same association in other phases of life: puberty, pregnancy and your periods. All of these things affect more than just your reproductive system; they affect your breath, too.
If that's news to you, it is to a lot of us, too!
What's happening is that your body is going through many biological and endocrinological changes around these times. Here's something most people don't know: There are actually estrogen receptors in the mucous membranes of your mouth, and hormones have a strong influence on your oral cavity—so much so that a study published in the Journal of Mid-Life Health makes the point of advising medical practitioners like gynecologists and dentists to be mindful of this association and make women aware of their dental needs around this time.
You see, menopause not only causes things like a dry vagina, but can also cause a dry mouth. And when your mouth is dry, you don't have enough saliva, and it's saliva which helps cleanse your mouth and fight the bacteria in it.
Learn more about The Health Risks That Come With Menopause .
By the way, It's not just your breath that a dry mouth can affect. It can change the foods you choose to eat because it can cause a metallic taste; it can change the way you speak (try talking and enunciating with a heavy, pasty tongue); and it may make it more difficult to swallow.
Inadequate amounts of saliva can also contribute to gum disease and tooth decay. And since saliva contains an enzyme called amylase, which helps break down starches, not having enough can even affect the way the nutrients in your food are broken down.
There's more (sorry you asked, aren't you?). A dry mouth can lead to ulcerations (known as canker sores ) or little cuts inside your mouth, making acidic foods—like certain fruits and veggies—burn when you eat them. These sores are usually harmless but can be painful and annoying. They will usually clear up on their own in about a week to 10 days.
Yes, it's a mouthful of information, but now is a good—and important—time to pay more attention to the health of your mouth and be especially diligent with flossing, brushing and dental visits.
And, to best treat that bad breath, here are some things you can do:
Brush your teeth, tongue, roof of your mouth and gums with toothpaste at least twice each day.
Gargle with water.
Avoid food and drinks that linger, like garlic and alcohol.
Chew sugar-free gum or suck on sugar-free mints to help increase saliva flow. Veggies like celery, carrots and cucumbers can also help. So can chewing on a spring of parsley and other herbs and spices like tarragon, coriander or cilantro, rosemary and cardamom.
Swish with mouthwash to refresh your breath.
Use special dental rinses to help increase saliva production.
Drink green tea to help fight mouth bacteria.