Your dry mouth (Xerostomia) may be a clue about the state of your overall health. This is because dry mouth is not a condition in itself, but a symptom that occurs in relation to many different conditions. Reduced salivary production can change the taste of food, reduce efficiency of chewing and digestion, reduce tolerance of the use of dentures and increase oral infections. So, what are the likeliest causes for this uncomfortable, unpleasant sensation? And, more importantly, what can you do to relieve the feeling of having a dry mouth?
What Causes Dry Mouth?
Dry mouth results from reduction in saliva production. Some conditions do impact the salivary glands directly, but in most cases unrelated issues are drying out your mouth.
- Medications often list dry mouth among their side effects. Some examples include drugs that treat depression, anxiety, high-blood pressure, pain, allergies, and more. The medication causing your dry mouth could be a prescription or over-the-counter medication. Never stop taking medication without first consulting your doctor or pharmacist and do let them know if you’re experiencing a dry mouth.
- Aging does not cause dry mouth in healthy adults , but medically compromised adults tend to take more medication and have more long-term health conditions resulting in reduction of salivary flow.
- Some health conditions that can cause dry mouth include diabetes, stroke, Alzheimer’s, and various autoimmune diseases.
- Cancer treatments (chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy of head and neck area) can change the amount of produced saliva. Depending on the amount or type of chemotherapy needed for treatment this change can be temporary or permanent. Radiotherapy of this area also causes a permanent dryness.
- Nasal congestion, mouth breathing and snoring cause you to breathe through your mouth, which causes dryness. A dry climate can make your dry mouth worse.
- Tobacco, alcohol, caffeine, and marijuana use may also contribute to dry mouth.
Saliva’s Role in Oral Health
Your mouth depends on physical and antimicrobial action of saliva to participate in the elimination of bacteria and plaque. Saliva helps in tasting, digestion, speaking and swallowing.
Saliva contains minerals like calcium and phosphate that neutralizes the acid produced by bacteria. It also washes away food particles and sugars that would otherwise linger in your mouth.
A lack of saliva can also cause thrush and mouth sores because your saliva protects your hard and soft mouth tissue.
Preventing Dry Mouth
- A lot of the time dry mouth will go away on its own. But you can take steps to speed its departure or even prevent it:
Use a humidifier while you sleep.
- Chew sugarless gum or suck on sugarless hard candy.
- Suck on ice cubes.
- Limit alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine use.
- Cut down on salt and sugar.
- Breathe through your nose (and clear nasal congestion if you can).
- Drink water throughout the day.
- Use alcohol-free mouthwashes and oral rinses.
- There are over the counter moisturizing products such as Biotene that can be purchased in the form of oral gel, mouth rinse, chewing gum, and toothpaste.
It is also doubly important to floss and brush. Reduced saliva puts you at a greater risk for tooth decay and gum disease. Use a good fluoride toothpaste to protect your teeth.
Treating Dry Mouth
Dry mouth can be a symptom of a larger condition. Therefore, to treat dry mouth you need to treat the underlying cause. In the case of snoring or dehydration this could amount to a simple lifestyle change.
Consult with your doctor if you suspect that your dry mouth is related to a medical condition or the medicine you use to treat it. They can advise you on how to reduce dry mouth while getting the care that you need. For example, there might be an alternative prescription that you can try.
Finally, your dentist can help you to prevent or repair damage caused by dry mouth. With quick action you can save yourself from future discomfort and keep your mouth healthy. Give our team a call to learn more!