Dry Mouth: Causes, Treatment, And Remedies

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Don’t let dry mouth ruin your quality of life. Manage it earlier on and better by knowing the different dry mouth remedies.

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In this article:

  1. What Is Dry Mouth?
  2. What Are the Symptoms of Dry Mouth?
  3. What Causes Dry Mouth?
  4. When Should You See the Doctor for Dry Mouth?
  5. How Is Dry Mouth Diagnosed?
  6. How Do You Get Rid of Dry Mouth?
  7. What Are the Home Remedies for Dry Mouth?

Everything You Need to Know About Dry Mouth

What Is Dry Mouth?

Dry mouth, also called xerostomia, is a condition characterized by underproductive salivary glands resulting in a parched or dry feeling in the mouth.

Saliva has an important role in our overall oral health. It can neutralize bacterial acids, limit bacterial growth, and wash away food particles, preventing tooth decay.

Saliva also serves a function for healthy digestion. It makes it easier to swallow and chew, and its enzymes help in breaking down food.

Dry mouth and reduced saliva can range from being just a nuisance to becoming a major problem for one’s general health, the condition of one’s gums and teeth, appetite, and enjoyment of food.

What Are the Symptoms of Dry Mouth?

With underproductive salivary glands, you may notice the following signs and symptoms all or most of the time:

  • Bad breath
  • Dry or sore throat
  • Hoarseness
  • Dryness or a sticky feeling in the mouth
  • Thick and stringy saliva
  • Chewing, swallowing, and speaking difficulties
  • Dry or grooved tongue
  • Taste changes
  • Problem with wearing dentures.
  • Cracked lips
  • Gum inflammations
  • Sleep interruptions because of thirst

In worse cases, dry mouth can also progress to:

  • Tooth decay due to increased plaque and gum diseases
  • Mouth sores
  • Thrush or yeast infection in the mouth
  • Poor nutrition from chewing and swallowing problems

What Causes Dry Mouth?

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An older woman smoking a cigarette outside

This condition occurs when the mouth gets dry because of a decrease in the production of saliva. The salivary glands may become underproductive because of the different factors.

  • Medications – Drugs for depression, anxiety, and high blood pressure, as well as, pain medications, muscle relaxants, and antihistamine drugs may cause dry mouth.
  • Nerve Damage – Nerve damage in the head and neck as a result of injuries or surgeries can cause dry mouth.
  • Aging –  Dry mouth is commonly observed in older people.
  • Chemotherapy – Drugs used in chemotherapy can affect the nature of saliva and the amount produces. This may be temporary as normal salivary production returns after the course of the treatment.
  • Radiation Treatments – Radiation treatments to the head and neck can damage the salivary glands, leading to a decreased production of saliva. The radiation dose and treated areas dictate whether this will be temporary or permanent.
  • Recreational Drug Use – The use of methamphetamine can cause severe dry mouth and teeth damage, AKA “meth mouth.” Marijuana can also bring dry mouth.
  • Tobacco and Alcohol Use – Smoking or chewing tobacco and drinking alcohol can increase symptoms of dry mouth.
  • Other Medical Conditions – Dry mouth can be caused by certain medical conditions like diabetes, yeast infection in the mouth, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, and autoimmune diseases like HIV/AIDS or Sjogren’s syndrome.

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When Should You See the Doctor for Dry Mouth?

Dry mouth is usually not a serious issue. It may be just a sign of dehydration.

Seek medical help if you think your medications are causing dry mouth. It’s ideal to talk to your doctor about going off medications before stopping the intake.

Consult your doctor right away as well if have symptoms of other medical conditions like:

    • type 2 diabetes
    • kidney disease
    • Parkinson’s disease
    • autoimmune disorders
    • anxiety disorder
    • depression
    • anemia
    • nutrient deficiencies

If such conditions are causing your dry mouth, it is best to treat the underlying condition rather than using home remedies.

How Is Dry Mouth Diagnosed?

Your doctor will most likely check your medical history and review all the medications, over-the-counter medications included, and examine your mouth.

To identify the cause of your dry mouth, your doctor may also order blood tests and tests or imaging scans of your salivary glands to measure how much saliva you produce.

If Sjogren’s syndrome is a possibility, your doctor may take a biopsy of your salivary glands for testing.

Sjogren’s Syndrome Definition: An autoimmune disease which attacks the glands producing saliva and tears

How Do You Get Rid of Dry Mouth?

woman gargling with mouthwash | Dry Mouth: Causes, Treatment, and Remedies | dry mouth remedies | antibiotics dry mouth | how to get rid of dry mouth
A woman gargles with mouthwash.

The treatment depends on the cause of the condition but options may include:

  • Medication Change – If it’s your medications that are causing your dry mouth, your doctor may adjust your dosage or prescribe another medication that wouldn’t cause the condition.
  • Use of Mouth Moisturizers – These include prescriptions or over-the-counter moisturizers, mouth rinses, and artificial saliva. Your doctor may also advise the use of xylitol mouthwashes designed for dry mouth like Biotene Dry Mouth Oral Rinse or Act Dry Mouth Mouthwash.
  • Saliva Stimulant Drugs – Your doctor may prescribe you pilocarpine (Salagen) or cevimeline (Evoxac).
  • Teeth Protection – To protect you from cavities, your dentist may advise the use of fluoride tray. You may also be advised to weekly use chlorhexidine rinse to control cavities.

What Are the Home Remedies for Dry Mouth?

There are things you can do at home to relieve symptoms of dry mouth.

1. Drink Water

There are studies linking dehydration as a factor in dry mouth. Drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated can relieve dry mouth.

2. Stop Dehydrating Habits

An extension of our first item, limiting activities that cause dehydration may help with your dry mouth symptoms.

Avoid caffeinated drinks. Studies have found that caffeinated tea can cause dry mouth.

Limit drinking booze. While alcohol use isn’t proven to be a risk factor, drinking alcohol is dehydrating and can contribute to dry mouth.

You should also stop smoking as it’s dehydrating. Cutting down or quitting on your daily nicotine fix may decrease symptoms of dry mouth.

3. Take Sugar-Free Candies and Gums

Sucking on sugarless candies and gums may bring short-term relief from dry mouth. Try taking cough drops, lozenges, and gums with xylitol.

4. Avoid Breathing Through Your Mouth

Mouth-breathing can worsen dry mouth and cause other oral health problems. When going through dry mouth discomfort always breathe through your nose more often than the mouth.

5. Get a Humidifier

You can relieve your dry mouth discomfort by simply adding more moisture to your environment with the help of a humidifier.

One study showed that air humidification can moderately improve symptoms of dry mouth. Try running a humidifier at night to improve sleep and decrease dry mouth discomfort.

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Learning the causes, symptoms, treatments, and home remedies for dry mouth can help you with managing the condition better and smarter. Since dry mouth can also be a symptom of an underlying medical condition, make sure to consult your doctor first before trying the suggestions mentioned above.

Make sure you maintain your overall health state by supplementing your diet and/or treatment with natural health supplements.

How do you keep your gums hydrated? Share your health tips with us in the comments below!

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