May 10, 2023
Did you know that dry mouth is a part of the body's "fight-or-flight" survival response? Many people often experience this when they are anxious or nervous.
Xerostomia (Dry Mouth): 5 Causes and Treatment
Did you know that dry mouth is a part of the body's "fight-or-flight" survival response? Many people often experience this when they are anxious or nervous. However, while it is entirely normal to have a dry mouth occasionally, a persistent dry mouth (also called xerostomia) can indicate an underlying problem.
Saliva not only moistens the mouth but also helps you taste and digest food, prevents infection by controlling the bacteria, and protects your teeth and gums. So when the mouth makes little or no saliva, it affects more than just your thirst. And since the saliva isn't washing out the food debris from the mouth, people with dry mouths often develop tooth decay and bad breath.
What Causes a Dry Mouth?
A dry mouth is a common side effect of over 400 prescription and nonprescription medicines, including allergies, muscle pain, acne, diarrhea, asthma, depression, high blood pressure, obesity, and cold. Chemotherapy can also cause saliva to thicken and make your mouth feel dry.
Medical conditions like HIV/AIDS, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, mumps, arthritis, Sjögren's syndrome, Parkinson's disease, cystic fibrosis, etc. can lead to a dry mouth. A dry mouth can also be caused as a result of aging.
- Nerve damage
Some nerves act as message carriers between the brain and salivary glands. If these nerves are damaged due to a head or neck injury/surgery, the patient might experience a dry mouth.
Not consuming enough water can cause an overall fluid loss in the body. Also, conditions like fever, excessive sweating, blood loss, burns, and vomiting can lead to dehydration and cause a dry mouth.
Smoking and drinking alcohol can aggravate a dry mouth. Chewing tobacco affects how much saliva you make. Breathing with your mouth open can also contribute to the problem.
How Can You Manage a Dry Mouth?
If you think your dry mouth results from any medicines you take, talk to your doctor. They may be able to switch the drug or adjust the dose. If a disease causes your dry mouth, focus on methods to increase the saliva flow. Here are some tips that you can consider after consulting your doctor:
- Suck on sugar-free gum regularly
- Sleep in a room with a humidifier
- Drink water or milk with meals
- Breathe through your nose as much as possible
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol, as well as acidic juices
- Reduce consumption of dry foods like bread, chips, and jerky
- Use an oral rinse to restore mouth moisture after brushing