Have you noticed that you feel parched or need to drink water more often? Do you have a dry, scratchy throat? You may be experiencing symptoms of dry mouth. Although occasional dry mouth may be a side effect of a cold or dehydration, chronic dry mouth may be a sign of an underlying problem.
Here, we explain the symptoms and causes of dry mouth, how it impacts oral health, and how to treat it.
What is dry mouth?
Also called xerostomia, dry mouth is a condition in which the salivary glands do not produce enough saliva. This results in your mouth feeling dry rather than wet. The condition has a number of symptoms and causes which are discussed below.
Symptoms of dry mouth
If your mouth is not producing enough saliva, you may experience the following dry mouth symptoms:
- A dry or sick feeling in the mouth
- Thick, stringy saliva
- Bad breath
- Problems chewing, swallowing, or speaking
- Dry, sore throat
- A dry tongue
- A change in the sense of taste
- Problems wearing dentures
Dry mouth causes
When the salivary glands do not make enough saliva to keep your mouth wet, dry mouth results. Various conditions, issues, and lifestyle choices can contribute to this oral problem. Common causes of dry mouth include:
- Medications – Various prescription and over-the-counter medications list dry mouth as a side effect. Among this list are medications that treat depression, anxiety, and high blood pressure along with antihistamines, decongestants, and pain medicine.
- Cancer treatments – Both chemotherapy and radiation therapy can affect salivary gland production. The dry mouth effects from chemotherapy are usually temporary; whereas the effects of radiation therapy may be temporary or permanent depending on the area treated.
- Nerve damage – If the nerves in your head or neck have been damaged, dry mouth may result.
- Health conditions – Certain diseases or medical conditions such as diabetes, stroke, Alzheimer’s, and autoimmune diseases may cause dry mouth.
- Age – Dry mouth is a common part of aging. This is due to changes in the body, poor nutrition, medication, and health conditions.
- Snoring – Sleeping with your mouth open or sleep-related breathing issues creates snoring or snorting sounds. While snoring is common with a cold and congestion, it can also be a sign of sleep apnea. Sleeping and breathing with the mouth open cause saliva to evaporate which can cause dry mouth.
- Dehydration – Dehydration occurs when your body loses too much fluid. When this happens, the mouth cannot create as much saliva.
- Tobacco, alcohol, and recreational drug use – Each of these lessens the amount of saliva and increases dry mouth symptoms.
Is dry mouth a serious symptom?
Occasional dry mouth from a seasonal cold or allergies is not cause for alarm. Additionally, if you simply have not consumed enough water during the day, you can easily correct that by filling up a glass. Dry mouth alone is not serious. However, chronic dry mouth may signify an underlying issue that may need to be treated.
How does saliva help your oral health?
Left untreated, dry mouth can have serious effects on your oral health. Saliva is the clear liquid in your mouth that plays a role in protecting your oral health.
Purpose of saliva
Saliva has antibacterial proteins that make it crucial in protecting your teeth and gums. Saliva helps keep teeth free of harmful bacteria and protects them from tooth decay and cavities. It also helps the body break down and digest food.
Saliva plays a role in everyday activities. It helps to:
- Keep your mouth comfortable
- Help you chew and swallow
- Fight germs and bacteria in the mouth
- Prevent bad breath
- Maintain strong teeth
- Keep dentures in place
Effects of decreased saliva
With less saliva production, the effects can be an annoyance. Your mouth may feel scratchy, dry, and uncomfortable. The effects can be a nuisance.
However, since saliva plays a role in digestion and oral health, less saliva means problems chewing and speaking. It also means the teeth have less protection and are at higher risk of decay.
As soon as you notice signs of dry mouth, it is time to consult your dentist.
How do you get rid of dry mouth?
When you notice signs of dry mouth, speak with your dentist. The first step is to determine the cause. If there is an underlying issue, that needs to be addressed first. Issues such as nutrition, water consumption, and tobacco or alcohol use are simple fixes. Health conditions, breathing issues, or medication use may require their own treatments.
Dry mouth remedies
If you require a certain medication for a health problem, you can speak with your physician about changing the dosage or trying another medicine. This may help ease your symptoms.
Patients who have health conditions that cause dry mouth can try managing their symptoms. There are products available to ease the discomfort of dry mouth symptoms. These products include:
- Mouthwashes containing xylitol
- Artificial saliva
Additionally, you may try the following:
- Sipping water throughout the day
- Chewing sugarless gum
- Consuming less caffeine
- Limiting alcohol and tobacco
- Breathing through your nose instead of your mouth
- Using a humidifier
Get dry mouth treatment in Hermitage, TN
At Dental Bliss Hermitage, we provide dry mouth treatment in Hermitage, TN. If you have symptoms of dry mouth, we will work with you to diagnose the cause. Our dental team will devise a plan that may include lifestyle changes or using products to ease your symptoms. We offer comprehensive dental services, including preventative, restorative, and cosmetic to keep your smile beautiful.
Take a step toward good oral health. Book an appointment today!