What Causes Dry Mouth?

Closeup of woman with severly chapped lips
Almost everyone experiences a dry mouth from time to time. Exercising, humidity levels, even anxiety, can make your mouth uncomfortably dry for a while. But when a dry mouth turns into a chronic condition, it can result in serious health problems including dental infection and decay.

What Causes Dry Mouth?

Chronic dry mouth is often a side-effect of a medication. In fact, The Academy of General Dentistry estimates there are more than 400 medications that cause dry mouth, with diuretics, pain medications, antidepressants, antihistamines, and decongestants (even over-the-counter brands) among the top culprits. Radiation treatment for head and neck cancers are also known to cause this condition.

There are several health conditions which can lead to chronic dry mouth. Salivary gland diseases, autoimmune diseases, diabetes, and hormonal changes which occur with pregnancy and menopause are known to cause chronic dry mouth. Finally, there are emotional triggers; stress and alcoholism are known contributing factors.

Why Is It a Problem?

Saliva not only helps break down the food we eat into the nutrients our bodies need, it also helps to wash bacteria and food particles off teeth. Saliva also neutralizes the harmful acids these bacteria can produce. Without this natural defense, plaque and bacteria can build up quickly at the base of your teeth, creating the perfect environment for bad breath, tooth decay, and gum disease. Plus, saliva helps rebuild and re-mineralize tooth enamel – without it, your teeth can suffer a bacterial one-two punch.

According to the American Dental Association, chronic dry mouth can also lead to oral candidiasis, a fungal infection sometimes called “thrush,” and a painful oral condition known as “burning mouth syndrome.” Not only that, chronic dry mouth can alter your sense of taste, interfere with speaking and swallowing, and make dentures uncomfortable to wear.

What Can Be Done About It?

Whatever the cause of chronic dry mouth – medications, disease, or another factor – the treatments for it include relatively simple, yet effective, lifestyle changes.

  • Increase your fluid intake – keep a bottle of water handy and sip as needed throughout the day.
  • Treat yourself to sugar-free gum or candy to help stimulate saliva production – but make sure it’s sugar free or you could be setting up your teeth for a bacterial barrage.
  • Add an alcohol-free mouth rinse.
  • Eliminate or reduce your intake of caffeine, alcohol, and carbonated beverages (especially those with sugar).
  • Avoid acidic juices (e.g. tomato, orange, or grapefruit juice) and dry or salty foods.
  • If you’re a smoker, quit.
  • Keep up with your daily dental hygiene routine to help minimize decay. Brush twice a day and floss once each day to remove food debris and keep decay-causing bacteria at bay.
  • Most importantly, talk with your dentist. Tell them which medications you’re taking, and any other health issues that may contribute to the problem. Your dentist may recommend artificial saliva (available at pharmacies) to keep your mouth moist and additional fluoride products to help control tooth decay.


Contact Walbridge Dental

Don’t let chronic dry mouth damage your healthy smile! From routine cleaning and exams to advanced restorative treatments to oral cancer detection, the professionals at Walbridge Dental provide complete family dental care to families in the Millbury community. Contact us online to set up an appointment now or call us at 419-836-1033.

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