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Dry Mouth: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

We have all experienced the unpleasant sensation of a dry mouth and bad breath when we wake up. Sometimes, the problem can be solved quickly just by drinking a glass of water, but if symptoms persist, it can be a real inconvenience. What are the causes of dry mouth, and what can you do to treat the problem? Is dry mouth any cause for worry?

Take a cue from the oral health experts at our dental clinic in Montreal, and learn all about the symptoms, causes and possible treatments of dry mouth.

Symptoms of xerostomia

Dry mouth, or xerostomia, is the result of reduced saliva production. Saliva is key to oral health, and if you don’t have enough, you could suffer real discomfort. There are a range of symptoms related to dry mouth that can have a real impact on your daily life:

  • Dry, sticky mouth: This is the most obvious symptom of xerostomia. A dry, sticky mouth is uncomfortable, especially when symptoms persist throughout the day.
  • Increased thirst: When a person lacks saliva, they tend to feel thirsty and will drink water more often than usual.
  • Dry and painful throat: A lack of saliva also affects the throat, causing dryness, irritation, and sometimes significant pain in this area.
  • Cracked lips and dry tongue: Without enough saliva, a person may develop dry, cracked lips and a dry, red tongue accompanied by burning or stinging sensations.
  • Bad breath: The absence of saliva allows bacteria to grow more easily in the mouth, which can lead to persistent bad breath.

If the symptoms of dry mouth persist and you can’t find a solution, further issues could pose a problem:

  • Difficulty speaking (dysphonia), or difficulty chewing and swallowing (dysphagia): Saliva lubricates the mouth and plays an important role in speaking, chewing and swallowing. Without it, these daily functions can be more difficult and sometimes painful.
  • Taste disorders (dysgeusia): Dry mouth can change your sense of taste, making good foods less appetizing or changing familiar flavours.

Dry mouth: long-term consequences for oral health

Saliva plays an important role in preventing oral diseases. A lack of saliva is linked to a higher risk of cavities, gingivitis and periodontitis. In addition, dry mouth can lead to ulcers and sores, which are painful and often associated with infections.

Causes of dry mouth

Dry mouth results from a reduction in saliva production, also known as hyposalivation. This can be caused by several factors:

Medications

Some medications, including antihistamines, antidepressants and anxiolytics (among many others) list xerostomia among their side effects, meaning they can cause a reduction in saliva production and a persistent feeling of dryness in the mouth.

Underlying chronic diseases

Certain diseases like Sjögren’s syndrome, diabetes, and HIV/AIDS are known to affect saliva production.

Age: a natural factor affecting saliva

As we age, there is a natural decline in saliva production. This can be exacerbated by increased use of medication and the presence of chronic diseases. Older adults are therefore more likely to develop dry mouth.

Temporary dehydration

Temporary dehydration due to fever, diarrhea or excessive sweating can lead to a temporary decrease in saliva. It’s important to stay hydrated to help your body produce enough saliva.

Medical treatments and interventions

Other notable causes of dry mouth include radiation therapy to the head and neck area, for example when treating oral cancer, and surgery. These procedures can damage the salivary glands and impact their function.

Stress and anxiety

Stress and anxiety can also cause temporary symptoms of dry mouth. Although it may not last for a long time, xerostomia is still uncomfortable and can interfere with your daily activities.

Treating dry mouth

Chronic dry mouth is uncomfortable, and it can also lead to long-term complications for your oral health. Fortunately, various treatment options are available depending on the underlying cause and severity of symptoms.

Treating xerostomia naturally

There are several ways you can avoid developing cavities or infections due to dry mouth:

  • Excellent oral hygiene: Brush your teeth at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and floss daily. Alcohol-free mouthwashes can also help minimize feelings of dryness.
  • Turn to natural methods of stimulating saliva production: Sucking on candy or chewing sugar-free gum can stimulate the salivary glands.
  • Stay hydrated: Drinking water regularly throughout the day helps keep your mouth moist and makes it easier to swallow and speak.
  • Adjust your diet: Reduce or avoid eating foods and beverages that can make dry mouth worse. These include spicy, salty and caffeinated beverages.
  • Use a humidifier: Avoid prolonged exposure to dry indoor air, especially during the night.

Treating xerostomia with medication

If symptoms of dry mouth persist after trying natural remedies, you could choose to treat the problem with medication.

Pharmacies carry gels and liquids that substitute natural saliva to offer temporary relief. These can be purchased without a prescription. In some cases, prescription medications may also be recommended to stimulate the salivary glands.

Treating xerostomia associated with medication

If the medications you are taking are identified as the cause of your dry mouth, talk to your doctor about adjusting the dose. Remember, you should always consult a health care professional before taking, stopping or changing the dose of any medication!

Your doctor can also verify that your symptoms are not related to an underlying medical condition, such as diabetes or Sjögren’s syndrome.

Consult a dentist to battle symptoms of dry mouth

If not treated in time, xerostomia can have a major impact on your oral health. We recommend consulting a healthcare professional as soon as possible to find a solution to a persistent dry mouth. Your dentist can help you determine what is causing the lack of saliva and discuss appropriate treatment options.

At Clinique Dentaire 1935, we take your oral health to heart. If you suffer from xerostomia, contact us now to schedule an appointment. We’ll help you relieve your symptoms and improve your quality of life!

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