Causes of a dry mouth

In the summertime or days where the sun shines so bright that you probably can cook an egg on rocks or tiles, the first thing you will complain of is having a dry mouth. Most certainly you will drink plenty of water knowing the hot temperature causing your body to become dehydrated. However, what if no amount of water can quench your thirst or there are no sunny days causing you to feel a dry mouth? You probably left wondering trying to figure out what is happening.

Dry mouth or xerostomia is a subjective feeling of oral dryness due to a condition of inadequate saliva to keep the mouth wet. Xerostomia can happen to anyone of any age especially when a person is in a stress mode. Although it is a benign condition at most times, a persistent dry mouth will interfere with the mouth function such as chewing, swallowing and difficulty to talk. A person with dry mouth for quite a long time will also have mouth infection, foul breath and mouth ulcers caused by absent or decreased saliva that helps to keep germs on bay. The most visible signs of xerostomia are cracked dry lips and lack of saliva on the mouth’s floor. Xerostomia can occur due to several causes such as:

1- Medicine’s adverse effects. The most common cause of dry mouth comes from prescribed medicine and over-the-counter (OTC) medications. With long lists of medicine that can cause this condition, some of the well-known drugs causing the salivary glands producing less saliva is antihypertensive used to control blood pressure, diuretics like furosemide, antihistamine such as cetirizine, antidiarrheal and antidepressants.

2- Radiation therapy. Therapy of the head and neck cancer using radiation may affect the oral cavity, lymph nodes and salivary glands due to anatomical locations and radiation field during treatment. It may cause a decreased function of the salivary gland and chronic inflammation.

3- Diseases. Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), thyroid disease, rheumatoid arthritis (RA), HIV/AIDS, end-stage renal diseases (ESRD), diabetes, Sjogren syndrome and head or neck injury due to nerve damage can cause xerostomia.

4- Dehydration. Being sick, excessive perspiration or less drinking water.

5- Psychological effect. Anxiety and depression, either mild or severe cases such as major depressive disorder (MDD). Being nervous and stressed causes the body to be prone to acid reflux symptoms which in turn affect the flow of salivary glands, causing less saliva production.


Here are some tips on how to reduce symptoms of dry mouth by yourself:

-regular sips of water especially sugarless drinks and cold water throughout the day and during meals

-sucks on ice cubes or cold lollies

-chewing sugar free hard candy or chewing gum to help stimulate saliva production

avoid eating spicy, salty, sugary and acidic food like sour lemons

-do not drink excessive alcohol as alcohol can easily dry your mouth and your body

-avoid drinking caffeine such as coffee, tea and chocolate based

-avoid fizzy drinks as fizzy drinks contains high sugar

-do not smoke tobacco and try to slowly quit smoking

-use humidifier especially at night time

Although dry mouth is usually not a serious condition to be treated, it can cause great discomfort for patients. Specific treatments are tailored by doctors according to underlying diseases and causes of dry mouth itself. For example, patients with dry mouth caused by medications, doctors might advise to stop the medications or substitute the drug with less dry mouth effect. Some doctors might prescribe a silologogue drug to help salivary glands to work better or saliva substitute in forms of gel, sprays, toothpaste or mouthwash.

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