A friend recently asked if I had run across any research papers linking chapped lips to menopause. Although I’ve not seen that direct association, I can tell you menopause is linked with dry mouth as well as burning mouth syndrome, i.e. burning in the tongue or oral mucous membranes and taste alterations.
In so far as dry mouth and burning mouth syndrome go, the tissues in the mouth and the salivary glands both contain estrogen receptors. Consequently, hormone fluctuations, like those associated with menopause, can affect the mouth, lips, tongue and even lead to periodontal disease. The rub is that although researchers are aware of this, the data are pretty scarce, although studies have shown that saliva, which by the way, is the primary defense against oral disease, is more productive in premenopausal compared to postmenopausal women. Moreover, it appears that psychological stress can also influence saliva flow, since it affects the nervous system. In some ways, it’s similar to an endless loop: oral discomfort relating to dry or burning mouth can lead to unpleasant sensations and anxiety, which then activates the autonomic nervous system and further reduces saliva.
Although there is not cure for either issue, there have been small but inconclusive studies indicating that hormone replacement may help. Dry mouth can be counterbalanced by drinking at least 1 to 1.5 liters of water or other liquid daily, or using commercial mouthwashes especially formulated for dry mouth. For burning mouth syndrome, there are commercially available gels and ointments, and some practitioners recommend rubbing olive or other vegetable oil to the oral tissues. Short of that, severe cases may benefit from antidepressants or probiotic products. For chapped lips? Personally, I am pretty hooked on the Pangea Organics line of lips products but I recommend that you use what feels best. Finally? Be sure to maintain your oral health by seeing the dentist regularly. It’s essential!