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Dry Mouth Causes

What Are The Causes, Risks, and Treatments For Dry Mouth?

Saliva is an important component of our mouth. It not only moistens our mouth but also keeps it clean and aids in the digestion of food. Moreover, it also prevents infections by controlling the harmful bacteria that enter the mouth, boosts your taste buds, and assists in chewing and swallowing food. However, sometimes you get the sensation that your mouth has gone parched, and you can’t feel the insides of your mouth anymore. If you’ve had this sensation on multiple occasions, you might suffer from a dry mouth condition known as xerostomia.

Nature’s way of cleaning the mouth is to produce saliva. Diabetes, on the other hand, reduces saliva production, resulting in waterlessness in mouth. Ulcers, soreness, infections, and tooth decay can all result from the condition. Symptoms can appear gradually or all at once. Dryness, a burning sensation, and a metallic taste in the mouth are the first to appear. Then white patches appear on the gums, tongue, and inner cheeks. Redness, blistering, peeling, and swollen mucous membranes are also signs of advanced lichen planus.


What is dry mouth?


A dry mouth is a condition where the salivary glands in your mouth do not produce enough saliva to keep your mouth wet. This condition is also known as xerostomia, cotton mouth, pasties, and dough mouth.

This dryness in mouth is not a condition but a symptom of another underlying condition. It isn’t a severe condition, but sometimes it can lead to complications like tooth decay or sores in the mouth. It is mainly caused in older adults due to the intake of certain medications, including antihistamines, among other reasons.


What are the causes of dry mouth?


There are multiple causes for this. Some of the most common ones are – 


1. Dehydration


You feel dehydrated when your body loses excess fluids, which are not entirely replaced. It can happen due to diarrhea, vomiting, extreme sweating, or blood loss. Due to the loss of fluid, your body cannot produce enough saliva to keep your mouth wet.

2. Medications


Consumption of certain medications, especially ones taken to treat asthma, high blood pressure, allergies, depression, anxiety, diarrhea, Parkinson’s disease, urinary incontinence, epilepsy, etc., can cause dryness. In addition, some chemotherapy medications can cause your mouth to dry.


3. Radiation Therapy and Chemotherapy


Receiving radiation therapy to the head or neck or chemotherapy can also cause mouth to dry as it damages your salivary glands, thus reducing the secretion of saliva.


4. Age


Aging itself may not cause dryness of the mouth. However, since older adults tend to take more medications, some of them can lead to waterlessness in mouth.


5. Stress


When you are stressed or anxious, your body releases cortisol stress hormones. A rise in cortisol levels in the body tends to reduce its ability to produce sufficient saliva leading to a dry mouth.


6. Mouth breathing


When you breathe through the mouth or snore, the saliva in your mouth evaporates. It can quickly dry your mouth or worsen the condition of your mouth being already dry.


7. Diseases and infections 


This condition can result as a side effect of certain medical conditions, including HIV/AIDS, diabetes, anemia, hypertension, stroke, cystic fibrosis, rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, and mumps.


8. Lifestyle


Smoking, chewing tobacco, or consuming alcohol can affect the levels of saliva you can produce and intensify the dryness of your mouth. Apart from this, using methamphetamines can also lead to dryness in mouth.


According to dental surgeons, excessive alcohol consumption has been linked to a variety of oral health issues, including tooth decay, tooth enamel erosion, dry mouth, and oral cancer.

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What are the signs and symptoms of a dry mouth?


Several signs and symptoms indicate that your mouth to dry. Some of them are listed below – 

  • Bad breath
  • Cracking or splitting of the lips
  • Inflammation or burning sensation inside the mouth
  • Difficulty in chewing, swallowing, or speaking
  • Change in the sense of taste
  • Increased thirst
  • Hoarseness
  • Trouble in wearing dentures
  • Sore throat, lips, tongue, or mouth
  • Feeling of dryness in the nose
  • Thick, sticky, or stringy feeling saliva
  • Tongue pain


Apart from these common symptoms, xerostomia can also lead to more serious symptoms, namely: 

  • Decayed tooth
  • Joint pains
  • Skin rashes
  • Dry skin or eyes
  • Fungal infections in the mouth
  • Increase in frequency of gum disease
  • Salivary gland infections


What is the treatment for dry mouth?


Since this dryness isn’t a condition but a symptom of an underlying condition, the aim for treatment of xerostomia is:

  • Treating the underlying condition that’s causing dry mouth
  • Increasing production and flow of saliva in the mouth
  • Preventing tooth decay

Treatment of this dryness involves several steps. First, your doctor will review if your current medications are causing your mouth to dry and replace it or adjust their dosage if required. However, if the cause of dryness of mouth isn’t medications, then the treatment will focus on increasing the saliva production in the mouth.

Your doctor may prescribe oral rinses, artificial saliva, mouthwashes, or lubricants to restore moisture in the mouth. Medications like Salagen and Evoxac also boost the production of saliva but must only be taken after consultation and prescription from a doctor.


To prevent cavities, your doctor might also fit you for fluoride trays. These trays must be filled with fluoride and worn over your teeth at night. Other causes of dental cavities include sugar-containing medications and nutraceuticals, medications that cause dry mouth, drinking too much tea, coffee, or wine, old age, weakened enamel from excessive brushing, and tooth grinding.


Apart from these prescriptions, there are specific steps you can follow to ease the dryness symptoms:

  • Avoid consuming antihistamines or decongestants whenever possible
  • Take a sip of water before swallowing capsules as the water will help moisten the teeth
  • Take medications in the morning as opposed to the night


Can you prevent dry mouth?


You may not be able to prevent your mouth from drying entirely. But you can follow specific preventive measures to avoid it – 

  • Drink a minimum of 8 glasses of water every day
  • Install a humidifier at home that will keep your mouth from getting dry at night
  • If you have a habit of breathing through your mouth, practice breathing through your nose
  • Avoid OTC medications such as antihistamines and decongestants that can cause your mouth to dry.
  • Avoid consumption of alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine
    Avoid acidic, sugary foods as they increase the tooth decay risks
  • Book regular dental visits

Certain foods are difficult to eat and drink when you have painful and stinging sores. Anything spicy, acidic, salty, or alcoholic will cause a burning sensation in your mouth. Caffeinated beverages and crunchy snacks may no longer satisfy your taste buds.

Other symptoms of burning mouth syndrome include loss of taste, a metallic taste in the mouth, and excessive thirst as a result of dryness in mouth. The problem usually appears suddenly, but it can worsen gradually over time.




Dry mouth is not a severe symptom. However, you can take several precautionary steps to prevent the symptoms from recurring. Keeping your mouth hydrated and moisturized is key to maintaining instances from recurring. In case of severe symptoms like tooth decay, skin rashes, etc., it is best to visit advanced dentistry in San Diego to get your condition checked and treated.

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