1O Causes of a Dry Mouth

A pasty, sticky mouth is really uncomfortable. People suffering with a dry mouth often report that it diminishes the quality of their life. Also known as xerostomia, dry mouth gives you a sore throat, bad breath, constant thirst and a burning tongue.

And that’s not all. Without saliva, you are more likely to get periodontal disease and, of course, tooth decay. Saliva has antibacterial properties, which provide protection against the acid that’s made by bacteria.

A common cause of dry mouth is prescription and over-the-counter medications as hundreds of them warn about it. Dry mouth is also due to conditions like arthritis or diabetes. Surgery, injury or radiotherapy or chemotherapy can destroy nerves in the salivary glands. What about smoking? Well, if you needed one more reason to quit, this is it. Smoking can make your mouth as dry as a sandpit.

Too much coffee

Excessive intake of caffeinated drinks may result in dehydration. Being a mild diuretic, caffeine consumption will make you urinate more regularly. In addition, coffee and some varieties of tea contain tannins—a naturally occurring compound that can cause a dry mouth.

It’s hormonal

When you’re feeling nervous or dehydrated, it’s normal to have a dry mouth—anxiety can cause increased breathing via the mouth, causing saliva to evaporate quicker than it’s replenished.

But a chronic dry mouth—medically referred to as xerostomia—affects about 20% of people and can indicate an issue. Menopause is a leading cause, as changes in hormonal balance result in drying of mucous membranes.

Blame your mouthwash

Mouthwashes that have alcohol are like double-edged swords: although they destroy harmful mouth bacteria, they can bring about dryness. The alcohol irritates the mucous membranes of the mouth and dehydrates them.

Saliva naturally cleans the mouth and protects against gum disease and tooth decay. Therefore, a dry mouth can result in both conditions. Avoid this by buying an alcohol-free mouthwash.

…Or your decongestant

Decongestant medicines work by narrowing the mucous membranes’ blood vessels, easing breathing and reducing inflammation. This action has an indirect effect of allowing less circulation fluid into one’s nasal cavity. This can lead to drying of the mouth. Decongestants are a short term relief, but when used for a long time, this effect can lead to an uncomfortably dry mouth and nose.

Blame diabetes

Consistent high levels of blood sugar caused by diabetes may result in a dry mouth. As well as weight loss and tiredness, symptoms of hyperglycaemia can include a constant urge to urinate.

When there are high glucose levels in your blood, your kidneys lose the ability to reabsorb fluid, removing it as urine instead. This dehydrates the body. Diabetes medication can also cause a dry mouth.

….Or your joints

Diseases like vasculitis or lupus, as well as rheumatoid arthritis can lead to secondary Sjogren’s syndrome, which is a disorder where the immune system affects the body’s saliva and tear glands, causing dry eyes and mouth.

90% of sufferers are females and it commonly occurs in the latter part of middle age. While there’s no cure, medication may help induce saliva production.

Acid reflux

One less common side effect of acid reflux is a dry mouth. Acid reflux is also sometimes referred to as heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux disease.

When stomach acid moves up the gut to the throat, it causes inflammation and irritation that can make the mouth and throat dry, leading to increased saliva swallowing in order to grease the throat and ease dryness.

It’s your nose

When you lack saliva, it can cause friction in your mouth when talking and eating, resulting in sores, ulcers and discomfort. Persistent breathing through the mouth could be due to a blocked nose caused by a hay fever or cold.

It may also be due to obstructed or narrow nasal airways, abnormally large tonsils, or an overbite which makes the lips not close well at night. A decongestant can be a solution for short term relief, but it could ultimately cause a painful dry nose and mouth.

Blame the pills

Dry mouth is a very common side effect of at least 400 medications, both over-the-counter and prescription.

Cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiotherapy also commonly result in a dry mouth, so patients are usually advised to suck on ice lollipops to ease the discomfort.

…Or the blow to your head

Two of your three pairs of salivary glands are regulated by two facial nerves running through the temporary bones at the base and sides of the skull. When the temporal bones suffer head trauma, it can affect the facial nerves, resulting in a dry mouth.

A longitudinal fracture, resulting from a blow to one side of the head after an accident, fall, or assault, accounts for 80% of fractures on temporal bones.

It is of vital value that those with dry mouth visit a dentist more regularly to check for tooth decay along the line of the gum. By brushing two times daily with fluoride toothpaste, flossing daily and using fluoride rinse, you will prevent tooth decay.