Does your throat feel parched and dry? This is a sign of having a dry mouth.
The medical term is called xerostomia.
This condition usually occurs because of a lack of saliva in the mouth.
The salivary glands in your mouth are responsible for secreting saliva. It keeps the mouth moist and prevents the accumulation of bacteria.
However, they may not secrete enough saliva because of medical conditions or medications.
This leaves your mouth dry making it susceptible to various diseases such as cavities.
If you have a dry mouth, this article is for you. Keep reading how you can control the dryness and improve your oral health.
What Are Dry Mouth Symptoms?
When there is less saliva in your mouth, you are likely to feel very thirsty most of the time.
Saliva helps to moisten the mouth and without it, you can feel stickiness and dryness.
Due to this dryness, you can easily develop canker sores and cracks on lips and at the corners of the lips.
Furthermore, you may have a sore throat regularly which will make your voice hoarse and without the saliva, it will be hard to chew and swallow food.
Your tongue will look red, and there will be an uncomfortable tingling sensation in your tongue and mouth usually.
The saliva inside the mouth even if less, will be stringy and thick.
The nasal passages will also become dry and you will have bad breath.
The bad breath is due to the fact that saliva helps wash away bacteria, acids and stuck food particles.
However, a lack of it results in more bacteria accumulating as plaque.
That causes your breath to smell bad, however, you may also soon develop cavities and decay.
Moreover, with the rise in bacteria and plaque there is a risk of getting gingivitis and gum disease.
Besides swallowing and changing, a lack of saliva can hinder you from speaking correctly.
People wearing dentures can find it especially hard to keep them in position and speak coherently when they have xerostomia.
All these signs and symptoms may appear after you get a certain disease or start taking treatment or medications.
It is rare to get xerostomia otherwise unless if it is because of tobacco use, drugs or improper nutrition.
More on that below!
What Causes Xerostomia?
A number of health conditions and diseases can contribute to dry mouth including:
Tobacco Use and Drugs
Smoking tobacco and chewing it can fry your mouth.
Moreover, high alcohol consumption can also decrease saliva.
Furthermore, the use of drugs such as Methamphetamine and marijuana can not only cause dryness but also result in huge damage to your teeth.
This condition is known as meth mouth.
Breathing and Snoring
If you snore at night, it will probably cause your mouth to dry in the morning.
Since you snore with your mouth open then it can also be a reason for dryness.
As breathing with your mouth open is another factor that causes xerostomia.
An injury to the head and neck or surgery in that area may result in nerve damage.
This interferes with the function of the glands and leads to dryness in the mouth.
As you age, your body may not process and respond to treatments the same way.
Furthermore, not getting proper nutrition, dehydration, other long-term health conditions and taking medicines such as those for high blood pressure can cause xerostomia.
Medical conditions that dehydrate the body and mouth such as vomiting, sweating and diarrhea can cause dryness.
Medicines and Treatment Side Effects
Medicines that treat depression, anxiety, hypertension, acne, obesity, urinary incontinence, diarrhea and asthma usually produce dry mouth as a side effect.
Antihistamines, pain killers and muscle relaxants too can contribute to it.
Furthermore, treatments like radiation and chemotherapy can damage the salivary glands. Hence, they secrete less saliva, causing xerostomia.
However, the saliva levels can return to normal when your treatment stops.
How Is Xerostomia Bad For Your Health?
While this condition is bothersome, you may not think of specifically getting treatment for it.
Unless it gets worse and causes more oral health problems.
Firstly, when you face difficulty eating and swallowing food, you may forgo it.
There is also a chance that you have sores and cracks in and around your mouth which makes it even harder to open the mouth and eat.
Hence, you are likely to skip food and have poor nutrition.
But that is only one issue.
Your condition can worsen if plaque keeps accumulating on your teeth.
This can increase the risk of getting tooth decay and cavities.
However, it may also get more complicated to cause gingivitis and periodontal disease.
This may result in tooth loss and you can also get infections like oral thrush.
Hence, as soon as you notice your mouth staying continuously dry, it is time to seek medical treatment.
If it worsens, you will have to get more treatments than what you would’ve initially gotten.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Your doctor can diagnose the condition by looking at your medical history and the medicines you take.
However, they may ask you to undergo imaging scans and biopsy to identify the condition’s cause and check how much saliva do the salivary glands produce.
Your doctor can offer another medicine as an alternative to your current ones if they cause xerostomia.
They can switch the medicine with another suitable one however, do not try changing your medicines on your own.
Moreover, they can offer saliva stimulants, rinses and artificial saliva moisturizers to moisten your mouth.
They help to increase the levels of saliva inside your mouth especially mouthwashes with xylitol.
If this isn’t enough, they will prescribe you medicines that stimulate the saliva.
Alongside your dentist will focus on giving you treatment for the possibility of cavities.
They can recommend you fluoride trays to wear while sleeping.
This can provide protection to the enamel and prevent it from eroding due to plaque and bacteria accumulation.
Furthermore, you can use chlorhexidine rinses to protect your teeth from damage.
Hence, if you can change your medicines then it can help regulate your salivary flow.
However, if it is due to an injury, medical condition or age then you will have to try remedies to increase the flow in your mouth. More on that below!
Dry Mouth Remedies
A chewing gum specifically a sugar-free gum with xylitol helps to increase the saliva inside your mouth.
The action of chewing stimulates the saliva glands to secrete more saliva. Moreover, the xylitol in the gum prevents decay.
Hence, if you suffer from xerostomia, you should chew sugar-free gums often. Suck on sugar-free gums for long to stimulate more saliva. Though excessive use can result in gas and diarrhea.
Your water intake should increase. It is almost inevitable that you will feel like drinking more water because your mouth is uncomfortably dry.
However, even if you do not want to, you should keep sipping water throughout the day to keep the saliva flowing.
This will help in regulating the saliva flow and assisting in chewing and swallowing food.
Another alternative is to drink sugar-free juices or suck ice throughout the day.
Breathing Through Nose
If you habitually breathe through your mouth then it is time to start inhaling and exhaling from your nose instead.
While you can control some of it, you may not be able to control breathing through your mouth while snoring.
Hence, you need proper treatment to deal with snoring. Though you may notice some change if you moisturize your room with a humidifier at night.
Giving Up Products
You should avoid drinking alcohol and caffeine.
Even mouthwashes with alcohol can cause irritation and dryness.
Tobacco products can elevate your symptoms and make your mouth drier.
Hence, you should avoid smoking and chewing tobacco.
- Eating Spicy and Sugar Foods
Spicy foods can result in irritation and sugary foods can contribute to erosion and decay.
So, if you do not want cavities to spread in your dry mouth then cut back on these foods.
You will have to give up on taking antihistamines or decongestants unless your doctor recommends you to take them.
Take Saliva Substitutes
Your doctor will also recommend you to take saliva substitutes, however, you can also purchase them over-the-counter.
These include moisturizers, mouth gels, and sprays containing xylitol or hydroxyethyl cellulose.
Use a Lip Balm
Your lips and corners of the mouth may crack. Hence, moisturize your lips using a lip balm or cream.
Protecting Your Oral Health
When there is less saliva production in your mouth, your teeth may likely damage.
The bacteria and acids do not wash away, hence the risk of cavities increases.
Therefore, regularly brush and floss correctly. Brush teeth using the right 45-degree angle and clean the back and front of all your teeth.
Do not forget to floss daily, either water flossing or using string floss.
Furthermore, you should brush twice with fluoride toothpaste and also use fluoride rinse regularly.
This will not make your enamel susceptible to erosion and decay.
You can also use a tooth gel that neutralizes the acids in your mouth due to bacteria.
Do not forget to visit your dentist regularly.
Schedule regular appointments with your dentist so that your oral health stays in check.
You can find treatments to relieve dry mouth symptoms temporarily but as long as you do not address its cause, it will keep disturbing you.
Hence, if you cannot alter your medicines or are going through a medical condition that causes it, then you should regularly visit your dentist to check for damage to your oral health.