What causes dry mouth and how to overcome it

Dry mouth is also known as xerostomia. Xerostomia is not a disease but a subjective complain of oral dryness resulting from reduced saliva flow. However, dry mouth can be associated with certain medical conditions such as diabetes , sjogren syndrome and etc.  This is why you should not ignore and get a professional consultation if you are suspecting that you are suffering from dry mouth.

Xerostomic / dry mouth condition may lead to

-          Increased dental caries.

-          Increased oral infections such as oral thrush (candida infection)

-          Halitosis (bad breath)

-          Reduced tolerance to dentures.

Signs and symptoms of dry mouth

-          Sensation of oral dryness. 

-          Discomfort during eating and speech

-          Pain while consuming spicy or coarse food.


Saliva is important:

-          Saliva contains enzyme which helps in digestion of food.

-          Saliva lubricates the mouth and allows food to slide through the esophagus without damaging the mucosa

-          Saliva helps in remineralisation and neutralize acids produced by bacteria.

Below are some common causes of dry mouth/xerostomia 

-          Medication/drugs  ( such as antihypertensive, psychogenic drugs) are by far the commonest cause of dry mouth.  Consult your physician if you suspect that your medications are causing you dry mouth.

-          Dehydration (decrease fluid intake) is a common cause of dry mouth among the elderly. 

-          Sjogren syndrome.  Sjogren syndrome is an autoimmune disorder which affects the exocrine glands. Dry eyes and dry mouth are the most common symptoms of sjogren syndrome.

-          Radiation therapy Xerostomia is a side effect of radiation therapy. Radiation therapy to head and neck can damage salivary glands and reduce salivary flow.

-          Anxiety, depression and other psychological factors can be one of the factors that cause dry mouth.

-          Smoking or chewing tobacco products can affect and reduce saliva production.

-          Developmental anomaly.  Absence of salivary gland which is also known as salivary gland aplasia is also a cause of xerostomic condition.

   How to overcome dry mouth/ xerostomia

1)      Get a professional consultation and find out the cause of your dry mouth condition.

2)      Increase fluid intake or take frequent sips of water throughout the day to keep your oral cavity hydrated.

3)      Stimulate salivary flow by chewing sugar free gum or suck on lemon drops.

4)      Protect dry lips by using lip moisturizer.

5)      Use a room humidifier to moisten air and reduce dry mouth in the early morning.

6)      Whenever possible avoid drugs which cause xerostomia or if your medications are giving you dry mouth, inform your practitioner so that he can change his drug prescriptions.

7)      Use specially designed dental products such as Biotene to relieve your dry mouth condition.  

8)      In severe xerostomic condition, your dental practitioner will most likely prescribe salivary stimulants (pilocarpine) and artificial saliva.

9)      Take good care of your oral hygiene and go for regular dental check up to monitor your oral health status.

10)   Avoid hard foods such as dry bread, crackers, and cookies as they will be hard to chew and swallow.

11)   Avoid consumption of coffee and alchohol. They are diuretics and can leave your mouth a dry sensation.