Category: General Dentistry, Oral Health Tips

Dry Mouth Treatments, Symptoms and Causes

dry mouth treatment

One in five people has serious dry mouth. To the extent, it becomes problematic. Learn about xerostomia, dry mouth treatment and home remedies!

Swallowing becomes a bit tricky, and your throat might feel dry or sticky. Lips can crack, and bad breath might become your new sidekick. Dry mouth is a serious problem that affects 1 in 5 people. So you’re not alone. Let’s look at the causes and dry mouth treatments, with special attention to home remedies.

What exactly is dry mouth?

Dry mouth, or xerostomia, occurs when salivary glands fail to produce sufficient saliva. Saliva plays an important role in maintaining oral health by neutralizing acids, aiding in digestion, and preventing tooth decay. 

Various factors, including medication side effects, dehydration, or medical conditions can cause less saliva production. We get into that a bit later.

dry mouth treatment

Symptoms of dry mouth

Xerostomia presents a range of symptoms that impact oral health. People with dry mouth may experience persistent thirst and a dry sensation in the mouth. Additional symptoms include difficulty in swallowing or speaking, as saliva helps the digestion of food. A dry or sticky feeling in the throat and cracked lips are also often seen. Other indicators are bad breath, recurrent mouth sores, and alterations in taste perception. 

With dry mouth, you can expect symptoms like:

  • Persistent thirst
  • Dry sensation in the mouth
  • Thick and stringy saliva
  • Difficulty in swallowing or speaking
  • Dry or sticky feeling in the throat
  • Cracked lips
  • Bad breath
  • Dry or grooved tongue
  • Recurrent mouth sores
  • Alterations in taste perception
  • Problems wearing dentures

From a dental perspective, dry mouth heightens the risk of tooth decay and gum disease because of lower saliva production. Saliva plays an essential role in neutralizing acids and removing debris from the oral cavity. Recognizing and addressing these symptoms is important. Not only for managing discomfort but also for maintaining good oral health through tailored dental care.

Dry mouth treatment

Managing dry mouth involves addressing its underlying causes and implementing targeted interventions. These are possible treatment options.

Medication adjustment

If medications are identified as the cause, healthcare professionals may adjust the dosage or switch to alternatives that do not induce dry mouth.

Moisturizing products

Prescribed or over-the-counter products like artificial saliva, mouthwashes, and gels can provide relief. Specialized mouthwashes designed for dry mouth may prove effective, especially those containing xylitol. Alcohol-based mouth rinse can make the problem worse.

Also, products with fluoride will offer extra protection against tooth decay and cavities. Consider using prescription-strength fluoride gel (0.4% stannous fluoride, 1.1% sodium fluoride) daily to prevent dental decay. Ask your dentist for more information.

Check prescription medications

In cases of severe dry mouth, particularly due to conditions like Sjögren syndrome or radiation treatment, prescription medications like pilocarpine (Salagen) or cevimeline (Evoxac) may be recommended. These medications stimulate saliva production.

Products from the pharmacy

Pharmacists can guide individuals with a dry mouth toward suitable over-the-counter treatments. Gels, sprays, tablets, or lozenges may be suggested, tailored to individual needs.

Salivary stimulants

These are used when the salivary glands are not functioning properly. Seek dentist advice or medical care before you use these.

dry mouth treatment

Home remedies for dry mouth treatment

Addressing dry mouth involves not just professional interventions, but also adopting practical coping strategies in daily life. Here are some effective measures.

Hydration

  • Sip water or sugar-free, caffeine-free drinks regularly throughout the day to keep your mouth moist. Try to drink 8 to 12 cups per day.
  • Use ice chips or chew sugar-free gum to stimulate saliva production.
  • Employ lip lubricants frequently, applying them every two hours.
  • Use a humidifier in your bedroom at night to add moisture to the air, addressing dry mouth concerns during sleep.

Oral hygiene 

Effective oral care is crucial for individuals dealing with dry mouth. Following these guidelines can significantly contribute to maintaining dental health.

  • Gently brush teeth at least twice a day with fluoridated toothpaste.
  • Floss daily to ensure thorough oral cleanliness.
  • Schedule dental visits at least twice a year.
  • Apply 0.5% fluoride varnish to teeth for added protection.
  • Address poorly fitting prostheses with dental soft- and hard-tissue relines and utilize denture adhesives as needed.

In case of any oral fungal or bacterial infections, seek prompt treatment for to prevent complications.

Dietary choices

  • Avoid salty or spicy foods, as well as dry and hard-to-chew items.
  • Steer clear of sticky, sugary foods that may exacerbate dry mouth symptoms.

Alongside professional guidance, incorporating these tips into daily life can alleviate dry mouth symptoms:

  • Breathe through your nose to maintain mouth moisture, considering treatment for snoring if mouth breathing is a concern.
  • Moisturize your lips to soothe dry or cracked areas.

Avoiding exacerbating factors, such as caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, and certain medications, is also a good idea when you have dry mouth. 

How can your dentist help with dry mouth? 

Regular dentist checkups make it easier to recognize dry mouth in the early stages. For those experiencing dry mouth or reduced salivary gland function, a dental examination may reveal dry and fragile oral tissues, with the tongue appearing dry and cracked. Issues that can be found in these cases include dental cavities, plaque buildup, gingivitis, and periodontitis. Infections like oral candidiasis and salivary gland enlargement may also be present.

Your dentist can perform thorough examinations, both inside and outside the mouth, to identify salivary pooling on the floor of the mouth. This helps determine who would benefit from further diagnostic tests, such as measuring salivary flow rates, minor salivary gland biopsy, or blood and microbial tests.

Causes of xerostomia 

Dry mouth arises when the salivary glands fail to produce sufficient saliva to keep the mouth adequately moist. Various factors can contribute to this condition. 

One common cause is medication, as hundreds of prescription and over-the-counter drugs may list dry mouth as a side effect. These include those for depression, high blood pressure, and allergies. 

Aging is another factor, with many older individuals experiencing symptoms of dry mouth due to changes in how the body processes medicine, long-term health issues, or poor nutrition.

Medical treatments, such as chemotherapy for cancer, can also affect how and how much saliva is produced. Furthermore, nerve damage resulting from surgeries or injuries to the head and neck area can contribute to xerostomia. Underlying health conditions like diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and autoimmune disorders like Sjögren’s syndrome may cause dry mouth symptoms. 

Lifestyle choices, including tobacco and alcohol use, can make the issue even worse, as can the use of certain legal or illegal drugs, such as methamphetamine and marijuana.

Dehydration, stemming from inadequate fluid intake, is a common cause of dry mouth. Snoring and breathing through the mouth, especially during sleep, can contribute as well.