We all need saliva to keep our mouths clean and moist. Saliva also helps in food digestion and prevents infection by controlling the growth of bacteria and fungi in the oral cavity.
When you do not make enough saliva, your mouth gets uncomfortably dry. Dry mouth causes may include dehydration, unhealthy lifestyle practices, certain medical conditions, and prescription drugs. Fortunately, most dry mouth symptoms are manageable at home, though there are also medications.
How Common Is Dry Mouth?
Dry mouth affects approximately 10% of the world’s population. It is more common in the aging population, and women are more affected than men. Patients who are taking prescription and nonprescription drugs can also be greatly affected.
What Are the Most Common Dry Mouth Causes?
Many prescription and OTC drugs can cause dry mouth. Antihistamines, anti-hypertensives, decongestants, muscle relaxants, anti-diarrhea medications, antidepressants, and urinary continence drugs are just a few examples.
Although dry mouth is not a natural part of aging, the elderly tend to take more drugs than the rest of the population. Most of these medications cause dry mouth.
Radiation to the head and neck can damage the salivary glands, hence a decrease in saliva production. Chemotherapy can also alter the amount of saliva being produced, as well as its quality.
Injury or Surgery
Nerve damage to the head and neck can result in dry mouth. Surgical removal of the salivary glands, though uncommon, will also cause dry mouth.
Tobacco use can increase the risk of dry mouth symptoms.
Lack of fluids definitely leads to dry mouth. Fever, excessive sweating, diarrhea, vomiting, burns, and blood loss all commonly lead to dehydration.
Dry mouth causes also include certain health conditions and habits, including:
- Stress and anxiety disorders
- Poorly controlled diabetes mellitus
- Sjogren’s syndrome
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- HIV or AIDS
- Sleeping with the mouth open
What Are the Most Common Dry Mouth Symptoms?
Symptoms of dry mouth include:
- Bad breath or halitosis
- Cracked or inflamed lips
- Sores or split skin at the corners of the mouth
- Taste disorder
- Fungal infections like oral thrush
- Painful tongue
- Excessive thirst
- Tongue ulcers and inflammation
- More frequent tooth decay and gum disease
- Difficulty chewing and swallowing, especially dry or crumbly foods like cereals and crackers
- Difficulty speaking
- Denture sores
- Sore throat
- Sticky saliva
When Should You See a Doctor?
Talk to your doctor or dentist if you notice ongoing signs of dry mouth. Your doctor may request blood tests and imaging scans of the salivary gland to rule out stones and masses.
Sialometry is an easy procedure that measures the flow rate of saliva. A biopsy may be requested if Sjogren’s syndrome or any other malignancy is suspected.
These tests will help determine the cause and suggest treatment options.
It is also important to see a dentist to check for signs of tooth decay or gum disease, which are also common dry mouth causes.
Dry Mouth Remedies at Home
Dry mouth is usually a temporary and treatable condition. In most cases, you can prevent and relieve dry mouth symptoms at home by doing one or more of the following:
- Drink more water
- Suck on ice cubes frequently
- Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco
- Limit your salt and sugar intake
- Use a humidifier in your bedroom when you sleep
- Chew sugarless gum or candy
- Use over-the-counter dry mouth treatment products like toothpaste, mints, and rinses
- Brush and floss your teeth daily
If a natural treatment for dry mouth does not work, you may have to consider professional treatment options.
Treatment Options for Dry Mouth
Treatment for dry mouth will depend on several factors. Is it caused by an underlying condition or just a specific medication?
If dry mouth is caused by a specific drug, your doctor will either alter the dose to minimize this side effect or prescribe a new medication.
Another drug may also be prescribed to help stimulate the production of saliva. Common medications include pilocarpine and cevimeline.
A patient with a dry mouth should also pay close attention to oral hygiene. Plaque removal and treatment of gingivitis, inflammation, and dental cavities may help treat dry mouth.
Schedule an appointment with Sunrise Dentistry now by calling (970) 247-3303. We offer holistic dentistry in Durango, CO, which can help prevent and treat dry mouth.