Approximately 36 million women in the United States are in the postmenopausal phase of life. The vast majority of these women experienced spontaneous cessation of menses between the ages of 47 and 55 years when the production of estrogen decreased because of an inadequate number of functioning follicles within their ovaries. Fewer women entered menopause after surgical removal of both ovaries. This procedure usually is performed prophylactically to prevent ovarian cancer in conjunction with a hysterectomy, which is required to treat abnormal bleeding, endometriosis or pelvic inflammatory disease. The physiological changes associated with spontaneous or surgical menopause cause some women to experience uncomfortable symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats and vaginal dryness. In addition, estrogen deprivation arising from menopause in association with age-related factors disproportionately increases the risk of developing cardiovascular disease (that is, myocardial infarct, stroke), osteoporosis, Alzheimer's disease and oral disease. Hormone replacement therapy, or HRT (estrogen or estrogen and progestin), often is prescribed on a short-term basis to alleviate the uncomfortable symptoms associated with estrogen deficiency and on a long-term basis to prevent some of the chronic illnesses common to postmenopausal women. Dentists who treat women entering menopause need to consider the stressful phase of life their patients are experiencing. Clinical findings of postmenopausal problems on dental examination may include a paucity of saliva, increased dental caries, dysesthesia, taste alterations, atrophic gingivitis, periodontitis and osteoporotic jaws unsuitable for conventional prosthetic devices or dental implants. Panoramic dental radiographs may reveal calcified carotid artery atheromas. Dentists have an opportunity to refer women who are not under the care of a gynecologist for an evaluation to determine the appropriateness of HRT for its systemic and oral health benefits.