Advice for patients

8 Reasons Why Your Mouth Is Dry

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Dry mouth can make your mouth feel like Sahara desert

Dry mouth is something everyone experiences at some point of life. Normally it passes by it self but sometimes it persists and might become a condition that affects the standard of living and oral health. At that point we realise how important the saliva actually is.

Here are the most common reasons for dry mouth.

Dehydration

I start from the most common reason for the dry mouth, the dehydration. There are many reasons for the dehydration and some of them are not so well known amongst common people. Here are the most typical reasons:

  • exercise
  • drinking diuretic drinks (e.g. coffee, tea, coke, alcohol)
  • hot weather
  • air conditioning

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The dehydration caused by these reasons is easily cured by drinking enough water. For example if you drink a cup of coffee, drink same amount of water as well.

Dehydration can be caused by other reasons as well like

  • medication
  • illnesses (e.g. fever, diabetes)
  • vomiting, diarrhoea

Mouthwashes

Mouthwashes that contain alcohol can dry the mouth. If you experience dry mouth, it may cause bad breath because saliva is not around to kill bacteria.

It is bacteria that is causing the bad breath and without saliva it will build up quicker. If dry mouth is accompanied with an inadequate oral hygiene regime it will result in thick layer of bacteria (plaque). And the longer the plaque stays in one place, the more sinister bacteria there will be. Even amoebas! Eew!

People who experience bad breath will often turn to mouthwashes but it can actually go from bad to worse. The best thing to do when you get bad breath is to visit your hygienist, follow a good oral hygiene regime and keep yourself hydrated.

Even the alcohol-free mouthwashes can dry the mouth. There are so many chemicals in the mouthwashes that it is not possible to predict how your mouth reacts to one. If you are interested to read more about mouthwashes and if you should use them, read this.

Stress

Stress can cause the saliva flow to decrease leaving your mouth feeling sticky. Also all the stress related illnesses like depression and anxiety can cause dry mouth.

Medications

There are many side effects with medicines, one being the dry mouth. The most common medicines to cause dry mouth are

  • antihistamines
  • beta-blockers
  • antidepressants
  • anti-psychotics
  • muscle relaxants
  • diuretics

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Sometimes it is worth consulting your doctor if there would be an alternate medicine for the same condition – maybe this alternate medicine is not causing that many side effects. Also pills from different trade marks can have different composition even though they have the same active ingredient. So trying different trade mark might help with the side-effects.

Remember not to stop taking medicine before you consult your doctor.

Illnesses and Syndromes

There are illnesses that may cause dry mouth. The Sjögren’s Syndrome is one of them. Also Alzheimer’s disease and stroke may cause dry mouth.

Cancer that requires radiation therapy close to salivary glands can damage the salivary glands and this will cause dry mouth. Also chemotherapy will cause dry mouth as it will make the saliva thicker.

Type 1 and type 2 diabetes can cause dry mouth with some individuals. It is not well known why this happens but it has been suspected that the high blood sugar levels are the culprit.

Smoking and Recreational Drug Use

Smoking and chewing tobacco can cause dry mouth symptoms, so does the use of marijuana.

Methamphetamine aka Crystal meth also causes dry mouth and damaged “meth teeth”. But the dry mouth side effect is the least of the worries with this drug. Stay away from it unless you are in a hurry to the grave. It is also good to remember that marijuana can be a gateway to stronger drugs. So it is best to avoid it as well.

Mouth Breathing

Breathing through mouth because of blocked nose or because of anatomy of the facial structures (lips, jaw) causes dry mouth. Also some of the mouth breathing is habitual and some of it happens at night when you sleep. This reminds me that I’ve always wondered if the mouth breathing is a nice way to say you snore at night?

Toothpaste Ingredients

Toothpastes have many ingredients and they vary from toothpaste to toothpaste. But 2 ingredients to avoid when you experience dry mouth are sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and zinc. SLS is found in many foam forming products like shampoos and it is better known by the name soap.

Also it is best to choose a toothpaste that does not cause your mouth burn or make it dry. The combo of chemicals reacts differently with each individual (like with mouthwashes) so you can find a suitable toothpaste for you by testing different toothpastes. Remember to always choose a toothpaste that contains fluoride (1450ppm).

How to Relieve the Dry Mouth

  • drink plenty of water
  • chew sugar-free chewing gum (preferably sweetened with xylitol or erythritol)
  • suck 100% xylitol pastilles (100% means that xylitol is the only sweetener used in the pastilles) – xylitol has an ability increase saliva flow. You can suck these as often you stomach can take.
  • suck on ice cubes
  • use dry mouth gels, sprays or lozenges that you can get from the pharmacist. Ask the pharmacist to check that they are tooth-friendly.
  • make sure your nose is not blocked, use decongestant before hitting the hay if it is
  • use small amount of olive oil before going to bed – spread it all around your mouth with your tongue. This will hopefully prevent you waking up because of the dry mouth at night.
  • set a room vaporiser to add moisture to the bedroom air if it is very dry – drying laundry indoors will do the same trick
  • seek help for the snoring from your doctor
  • think about changing your lifestyle habits especially if you can tick many boxes in the list of the reasons for dry mouth. Some things you cannot change, but those you can, might make a difference to your overall well being. If you are depressed and have medication for the depression – seek help for the root cause of the depression. Maybe a therapy?

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