About Dry Mouth
This condition is also known as Xerostomia; whilst having a dry mouth is rarely a sign of anything serious, it can be unpleasant and significantly affect your mood.
Occasionally having a dry mouth when you’re dehydrated or feeling tense is quite normal but if this becomes a persistent problem, then you should see your dentist to try to find out the cause of your symptoms.
Some of the symptoms include:
- Difficulty swallowing, chewing or speaking
- Dry throat and burning mouth
- Burning, dry or discoloured tongue
- Recurrent mouth infections that will not go away
- Dry lips
- An altered or decreased sense of taste
- Bad breath (halitosis)
What are some of the causes of dry mouth?
One of the most common causes of dry mouth is dehydration. This means that the body doesn’t have enough fluid to produce saliva. Dry mouth may also be usual for people who do a lot of physical activity or are unwell. Drinking at least two litres of water daily to keep hydrated will help your physical and oral health.
Many medications can contribute to dry mouth, including antidepressants or medicines for high blood pressure. Check the leaflet or search for your prescription online to see if dry mouth is a side effect.
Radiotherapy and Chemotherapy
Radiotherapy to the head and neck can cause the salivary glands inflamed and swollen. This is known as mucositis.
Smoking and chewing tobacco can cause dry mouth because the nicotine in tobacco reduces salivary flow. If you’re experiencing dry mouth, cutting down on smoking is advised. If this is a problem, speak to your GP for further advice and guidance.
Breathing through your mouth can cause saliva to evaporate and can, therefore, lead to a dry mouth. Many people breathe through their mouths at night when they have a cold because of nasal congestion. Steaming or taking a hot bath before bed can help with this. People may also breathe through their mouths at night because of sleep apnea. If this is the case, make an appointment with your dentist, who can provide you with a mouth guard or refer you to a specialist.
Stress and anxiety
When stressed or anxious, we tend to breathe quickly through our mouths, creating dry mouths. Additionally, when we experience anxiety, our bodies move fluids differently – taking fluids like saliva and moving them to where we might need them more. If you’re experiencing stress and haven’t been to your GP, make an appointment today.
Some types of injuries to the head or neck can damage the nerves that create saliva, causing dry mouth. Likewise, some surgeries can damage these nerves, having the same effect. If this is the case, your dentist may be able to recommend some over-the-counter saliva substitutes or a mouthwash designed for dry mouth.
This is caused by the immune system attacking and damaging the salivary glands.
Prevention of Dry mouth
Whilst preventing dry mouth relies on knowing the cause, some of the following tips may help:
- Chewing sugar-free gum or sugar-free sweets can help to stimulate your salivary flow
- Avoiding alcohol, caffeine, fizzy drinks and tobacco
- Drinking two litres of cold water a day or an unsweetened beverage and regularly sipping throughout the day
- Sucking ice cubes
- Breathing through your nose, not your mouth
- Attending regular dental check-ups to ensure good oral health
If there is no improvement in your symptoms, then artificial saliva substitutes may be recommended in the form of a spray, gel or tablets.
Making an appointment to see your dentist will help you to find the possible cause of your dry mouth and how best to treat the symptoms.