It is considered normal to occasionally have a dry mouth if dehydrated or feeling nervous, but if it is persistent, it might be an indication of an underlying health condition that requires further assessment. A doctor or dentist should be consulted if the individual has an unusually dry mouth.
Causes of dry mouth
Dry mouth can occur once the salivary glands in the mouth do not generate enough saliva. This is often due to dehydration in which the body does not have adequate fluid to produce the needed saliva. It is also common for the mouth to become dry if the individual feels nervous or anxious. In some cases, dry mouth also occurs due to an underlying problem or health conditions such as the following:
- Blocked or clogged nose – breathing via the mouth while sleeping can cause it to dry out
- Medications – various medications are known to cause dry mouth include antihistamines, antidepressants and diuretics. It is vital to carefully read the instruction on the packaging if dry mouth is listed as a side effect.
- Diabetes – this condition causes the blood sugar level to rise substantially.
- Sjogren’s syndrome – this is a condition in which the immune system attacks the salivary glands
- Radiotherapy to the neck and head – this can cause the salivary glands to become swollen
If a doctor or dentist is consulted, the individual should discuss other symptoms present and any treatments so that further assessment can be carried out and the right treatment can be given.
Possible issues caused by a dry mouth
Saliva has a vital role in keeping the mouth healthy. In case an individual has a dry mouth, he/she can experience other issues such as the following:
- Bad breath (halitosis)
- Dry lips
- Burning sensation or soreness in the mouth
- Diminished or altered sense of taste
- Tooth decay and gum disease
- Frequent mouth infections such as oral thrush
- Difficulty speaking, swallowing or eating
Always bear in mind that good oral hygiene must be maintained if the individual has dry mouth to minimize the risk for dental problems. It is best to see a dentist on a regular basis so that any issues can be identified early.
Once the doctor or dentist was able to determine the cause of dry mouth, appropriate treatment can help improve the symptoms. In case medication is the suspected cause of dry mouth, the doctor might lessen the dosage or recommend an alternative medication.
There are also simple measures that can help keep the mouth moist such as the following:
- Increase the intake of fluid such as taking regular sips of cool water or an unsweetened beverage
- Suck on ice cubes so that the slowly melting ice can moisten the mouth
- Suck on sugar-free sweets or gum to stimulate the salivary glands to generate more saliva
- Avoid alcohol including alcohol-based mouthwash, smoking and caffeine since these can worsen dry mouth