Have you ever had your mouth feel parched and as dry as the Sahara desert? Then you know the feeling of a dry mouth. Sometimes it’s caused by something as simple as needing to drink more fluids or the weather. But when dry mouth is a frequent or constant annoyance, then it could be a signal of another issue, sometimes serious, that should be addressed to figure out the reason.
Dry mouth actually has a name – xerostomia. Having sufficient moisture or saliva in the mouth is necessary to help cleanse the mouth helping to neutralize acids produced by plaque and for washing away dead cells that accumulate on the tongue, gums, and cheeks. If these cells are not removed, the cells decompose leading to bad breath and possible tooth decay and gum problems.
A dry mouth can also lead to loss of sleep and an altered sense of taste that can result in a metallic or sour taste in the mouth.
Underlying causes of dry mouth
There can be numerous causes of a dry, pasty mouth. If a dry mouth occurs suddenly, it is important to have it checked out to find the cause and get it corrected. Here are some reasons why a person may develop a dry mouth:
Medications – This can be a common reason for many taking medications for various reasons. Chemotherapy drugs treating cancer, antihistamines, and antidepressants are common culprits of a dry mouth. Discuss with your doctor to see if another medication can be substituted for the one leading to dry mouth.
Dehydration – Obviously going for long periods without fluid or being dehydrated will lead to drying out the mucous membranes reducing saliva flow. Be sure to have a water bottle nearby when working up a sweat or when being outdoors in hot, humid weather.
Aging – Getting older does not necessarily cause dry mouth but the elderly may be on certain medications or have other health conditions that can cause their mouth to dry out.
Nerve damage – Any injury or surgery that causes nerve damage to your head and neck area could result in dry mouth.
Tobacco use – The use of chewing tobacco or smoking can increase dry mouth symptoms.
Diabetes – A dry mouth is not only a symptom of high blood sugar but it can also be the cause of it. Having a dry mouth, especially for someone with diabetes, can lead to rampant tooth decay which can lead to blood sugars increasing as the body tries to fight off an infection.
How is dry mouth treated?
Depending on the cause will determine the treatment for a dry mouth. For the best long-term remedies for a dry mouth, the cause needs to be addressed to help alleviate the problem.
Here are some temporary ways to relieve a dry mouth:
Chew sugar-free gum or suck on sugar free candies to stimulate the flow of saliva
Limit caffeine intake as caffeine can make your mouth drier
Avoid mouthwashes with alcohol as they can be drying
Stop all use of tobacco products
Drink or sip on water frequently throughout the day
Try over-the-counter saliva substitutes
Avoid using over-the-counter antihistamines and decongestants as they can make symptoms worse
Breathe through your nose and not your mouth
Use a humidifier at night adding moisture to the room you sleep in
Take special precautions with your oral health when you have a dry mouth:
Avoid sugary or acidic foods and drinks as they can increase tooth decay
Brush with a fluoride toothpaste
Use a fluoride rinse
See your dentist twice a year