While dry mouth might initially sound like nothing more than a minor inconvenience, it can potentially lead to several other oral health concerns when left untreated. Saliva plays an important role in our mouths; it keeps the mouth moist, aids in digestion, and helps control bacteria that reside in the mouth. Dry mouth, then, results from a lack of appropriate saliva production. Besides being uncomfortable, dry mouth can lead to tooth decay, gum disease, and an increase in mouth infections. Are you suffering from dry mouth? Read on to learn more about the causes, symptoms, and treatments for this common condition.
What causes dry mouth?
There are a variety of factors that can lead to dry mouth. Some of the most common causes of dry mouth include:
- Medication side effects. Dry mouth is an extremely common side effect of a number of prescription and over-the-counter medications. Additionally, dry mouth can result from side effects of certain treatments, including chemotherapy and radiation.
- Smoking. Many heavy smokers– including cigarette, pipe, and cigar smokers– experience dry mouth.
- Health conditions. There are certain health conditions associated with dry mouth. Specifically, diseases that affect the salivary glands– including Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, and HIV– often lead to dry mouth.
- Dehydration. Not surprisingly, dehydration resulting from high fever, persistent vomiting, and severe diarrhea can result in dry mouth.
Could I have dry mouth?
Perhaps the most obvious symptoms of dry mouth are a lack of moisture in the mouth and a feeling of thirst. These are not the only signs of potential dry mouth, however. If you think you might be suffering from this common condition, consider the following symptoms:
- Difficulty swallowing. If your ability to swallow feels strained or uncomfortable, dry mouth might be the cause.
- Mouth sores. These types of sores are noticeably different from cold sores and include cracked lips, split or cracked skin in the corners of the mouth, and sores inside of the mouth.
- Hoarseness and sore throat. That chronic hoarseness and sore throat that you’ve been chalking up to allergies might actually be a result of dry mouth.
- Halitosis. If you’re constantly chewing gum or popping breath mints in an attempt to mask your chronic bad breath, you might be suffering from dry mouth.
How is dry mouth treated?The treatment for dry mouth typically depends on the underlying cause of the condition. Some treatment options your dentist might recommend include:
- Medication adjustment. If your dry mouth is a side effect of a medication you’re currently taking, switching medications or adjusting the dosage might be a viable option for treating dry mouth.
- Specialty mouthwashes. Your dentist might prescribe a mouthwash specifically formulated to help dry mouth.
- Medications to boost saliva production. If adjusting your medication dosage and using specialty mouthwashes aren’t effective in treating your dry mouth, a doctor might prescribe a medication that is designed to boost saliva production.
You can also treat your dry mouth at home by considering the following tips:
- Drink plenty of water. Carry a water bottle with you throughout the day; sipping water continuously helps to keep the mouth moist.
- Chew sugar-free gum. Chewing sugar-free gum or sucking on sugar-free candy can aid in boosting your saliva production.
- Be mindful of your breathing. Breathing through your mouth contributes to dry mouth, so make a conscious effort to breathe through your nose.
- Cut back on caffeine. Highly caffeinated drinks– think coffee, tea, and soda– have been known to contribute to dry mouth. If you can’t cut caffeine out entirely, try to significantly limit your daily intake.
For more information about dry mouth– or to discuss any general oral health concerns– please contact us today. We would love to help you achieve a healthy, glowing smile!