What Causes Dry Mouth?

What Causes Dry Mouth?

Dec 17, 2021

Saliva is necessary to keep the mouth functioning correctly and keep tissues and teeth healthy. Saliva neutralizes acids produced by oral bacteria and rinses away food particles, helping to reduce cavities. Saliva also helps us chew, swallow and taste food. When there is not enough salivary production, this leads to a dry mouth called xerostomia. Dry mouth can range from mild to severe and has multiple causes. 

Symptoms of Dry Mouth 

  • Dry or sticky feeling in the mouth 
  • Bad breath, called halitosis 
  • Stringy saliva 
  • Grooved or swollen tongue 
  • Difficulty chewing, swallowing and tasting 

Oral Effects of Dry Mouth 

  • Increased formation of plaque and tartar 
  • Increased risk of cavities, especially at roots of teeth 
  • Mouth sores such as aphthous ulcers 
  • Oral yeast infections called thrush 
  • Dry, cracked lips 

Causes of Dry Mouth 

Ageing – One of the more prominent causes of dry mouth is the ageing process. With age, a person is more likely to have one or more of the factors related to dry mouth. Age causes the body to slow down the production of saliva. 

Medications – There are, unfortunately, many medications that may cause dry mouth. Common drugs that cause dry mouth treat blood pressure, depression and anxiety, allergies, hay fever, muscle relaxants, and pain relievers.

Smoking and Alcohol Use – Alcohol dehydrates the body, while smoking dries out the mouth, both leading to decreased saliva production. 

Chemotherapy and Radiation Therapy – Cancer treatment, especially focused on the head and neck, such as thyroid cancer, can alter saliva production. Sometimes this can be temporary after cancer treatment and sometimes permanent. 

Health Conditions – Certain health conditions such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and HIV/AIDS, and autoimmune diseases such as Sjogren’s syndrome can cause dry mouth. 

Snoring/ Mouth Breathing – Sleeping with the mouth open and also breathing through the mouth can cause a dry mouth by drying out tissues and reducing salivary flow. 

Treatment for Dry Mouth 

It isn’t always possible to prevent or eradicate dry mouth. It is essential to address the cause of dry mouth. If it is due to medications, consider switching to a different brand. Reduce alcohol consumption and smoking. There are products available to alleviate symptoms, such as salivary substitutes in gum, mouthwash and gels.  

If you have any questions about dry mouth or are experiencing symptoms, we encourage you to contact us today to book an appointment.