Everyone has experienced having a dry mouth at some point in their lives. To most, it’s a temporary annoyance usually fixed with a glass of water, but if you find yourself constantly asking, “Why is my mouth so dry?” there could be underlying problems. A recurring, noticeable lack of saliva is medically called “xerostomia,” and it can be the result of several different medical conditions—originating in the mouth or otherwise.
What Are the Symptoms of Dry Mouth?
When the salivary glands in the mouth aren’t producing enough to keep the tissues moist, it’s referred to as dry mouth—also referring to the sensation when your throat feels dry, or you have a dry tongue. Saliva is crucial for cleansing our mouths by washing away bacteria and helping us swallow and digest food. When saliva is lacking, it results in a few noticeable symptoms:
- Dryness or a feeling of stickiness in your mouth. The absence of moisture in your mouth is fairly easy to notice, but even decreased saliva output is a symptom of dry mouth, and may simply feel like the surfaces in your mouth are “sticky.”
- Bad breath. Decreased saliva results in an accumulation of food particles that aren’t washed away, which can putrefy in your teeth or on surfaces in your mouth and throat, resulting in bad breath.
- A changed sense of taste. Lack of saliva can also affect how certain foods taste as taste buds can only taste food that has been dissolved in water/saliva.
- Burning sensation in the mouth or dry, cracked lips. Because the tissues in your mouth are designed to be constantly moistened, the lack of saliva can result in irritation and sores as the skin contracts in the absence of saliva.
What Are Some Common Dry Mouth Causes?
Dry mouth can be caused directly by certain oral hygiene and lifestyle habits or as a side effect of certain medical conditions and medications. Some of the most commonly dry mouth causes include:
- Medications. Dry mouth is a common side effect of many prescription and nonprescription drugs, including antihistamines and decongestants, diuretics, certain bronchodilators, and muscle relaxants, and sedatives. Medications will have the side effects listed, including dry mouth. Talk with your doctor if you suspect that the medication you are taking is one of your primary dry mouth causes.
- Diseases and Infections. There are numerous diseases and conditions that result in dry mouth, including HIV/AIDS, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, anemia, cystic fibrosis, rheumatoid arthritis, hypertension, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, and mumps. However, dry mouth alone is usually not the only indicator of these conditions. Consult your doctor if you experience dry mouth, as well as any other symptoms you may have noticed.
- Medical Treatments. Certain medical procedures that damage the salivary glands can result in dry mouth—like targeted radiation to the head and neck for cancer treatment. Restorative dental care may have some success in restoring salivary function.
- Dehydration. Dehydration is the most common cause of dry mouth. Saliva is mostly water, and when your body isn’t adequately hydrated, saliva production is one of the first bodily processes to stop.
- Lifestyle. Tobacco use, marijuana use, and other recreational drug use are proven to impact saliva production and can result in dry mouth. Breathing with your mouth open is also a known cause, and is especially common for causing dry mouth at night.
What Problems Can a Dry Mouth Cause?
While annoying and uncomfortable to experience, constant dry mouth also comes with some real risks to your oral health. Gingivitis, tooth decay, and mouth infections are all more likely in people with dry mouth, as are sores and problems with nutrition from being unable to chew and swallow correctly. Patients who wear dentures might also have a harder time keeping them attached.
Treating Dry Mouth
When it comes to treating the effects of dry mouth, preventive dental care is always the best option. Having a regular dental routine, including brushing twice per day with fluoride toothpaste and flossing before bed, goes a long way in protecting your oral health in the absence of saliva. There are also plenty of treatment options for dry mouth itself.
- Sucking on sugar-free candy, chewing sugar-free gum with xylitol, or sucking on ice chips or sugar-free ice pops helps stimulate saliva flow.
- Drink plenty of water throughout the day to stay hydrated and keep water by your bed at night to help a dry throat at night.
- Breathe through your nose, and not your mouth. The influx of air evaporates moisture in your mouth.
- Avoid salty foods or dry foods that sap moisture from your mouth and body, and avoid beverages with high sugar content, as sugar also has a drying effect.
- Alcohol dehydrates the body by producing frequent urination. Drinks with caffeine also dry out the mouth.
Finally, there is also a range of over-the-counter and prescription treatments to stimulate saliva production or simulate it through artificial means. Talk with your dentist about prescription options for dry mouth.
Related: Dental clinic near me
Dry mouth is a common problem with plenty of patients, but if it goes untreated, it can result in serious risks to your oral and overall health. Thankfully, there are plenty of treatment options available, and if you’ve been struggling with dry mouth, our dentists at Spanish Springs Family Dental can help! Call us today for your first appointment, and let us help you find a solution to your dry mouth.