Dry Mouth: Causes, Effects, and Prevention

Dry Mouth: Causes, Effects, and Prevention

HAVE YOU EVER woken up with your mouth feeling like a barren desert?  If so, you’ve experienced xerostomia, more commonly referred to as dry mouth. Dry mouth affects a tenth of the population and can be severe enough that it affects your speech and eating habits.  So why is it such a problem, why does it happen, and what can we do about it?


In The Absence Of Saliva…

Saliva is the mouth’s first line of defense against bacteria, bad breath, and tooth decay.  It washes away leftover food particles and neutralizes acids, protecting our teeth and gums.  Consequently, when there isn’t enough saliva to perform all of these important tasks, the result is much more serious than just an unpleasant sandpaper feeling.


What Causes Dry Mouth?

Dry mouth has numerous causes, including smoking, drinking, dehydration, aging, and sometimes the salivary glands can be damaged by chemotherapy or radiation treatment.  However, the most common cause is ordinary medication.  In fact, over 400 medications include dry mouth on their lists of side effects! If you have been suffering medication-related dry mouth, please talk to us about palliative treatment options.

Good Habits To Prevent Or Reduce Dry Mouth

For particularly severe dry mouth, artificial saliva could provide relief and protect your teeth from decay, but there are also a few good habits that can minimize the problem.

Nose Breathing

Avoid breathing through your mouth, whether you are awake or asleep.  Even for people with fully functioning salivary glands, mouth breathing can result in a much dryer mouth than nose breathing.  For that, and many other health reasons, it is important to breathe through your nose whenever possible, especially during sleep.

Stay Hydrated

Your salivary glands can’t produce saliva if you’re not drinking enough water.  Even if saliva production is impeded for other reasons, regularly sipping water can help eliminate the dry mouth feeling.

Stimulate Saliva Production

Sugar-free gum and candy encourage your salivary glands to up their production, particularly if the flavor is citrus, mint, or cinnamon.  (Bonus points: sugar-free gum sweetened with xylitol is also good for your teeth because it starves the bacteria that feed on sugar!)

Choose Your Mouthwash Carefully

Mouthwash containing alcohol may undo its own positive germ-killing effects by drying out your mouth.  Just like drinking alcoholic beverages has a dehydrating effect on the body, swishing alcoholic liquid around will specifically dehydrate the mouth.  Look for a non-alcoholic option when choosing a mouthwash.

Don’t Smoke

Smoking is one of the common causes of dry mouth, and not smoking is an obvious solution.  The same goes for dry mouth caused by alcohol intake.

We Can Beat Dry Mouth Together!

Dry mouth can pose a serious threat to your oral health.  Aside from following these good habits, one of the best things you can do if you experience dry mouth symptoms is to schedule an appointment with us.  That way we can help you identify the cause(s) and develop a plan to put an end to that sandpaper feeling!  Please call (217) 698-9300 to schedule an appointment today!

At Link Baines Dental, we love to fight for your dental health!



Top image by Flickr user someone10x used under Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 4.0 license. Image cropped and modified from original.

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.