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Dry Mouth

Xerostomia: Dry Mouth Causes and Remedies


Do you wake up every day like clockwise to a scratchy throat and a raspy voice that sounds way too croaky to be your own? If your mouth emulates a scratchboard with how hoarse it sounds and your throat feels swollen and chafed every morning, you may be dealing with the infamous condition of dry mouth syndrome or xerostomia.

It can happen on more than frequent occasions either due to dehydration from drinking one too many pints of liquor on a night out or because of your nightly habit of mouth breathing. It is also normal for you to instantaneously have dry mouth upon nervousness or fear. However, if you are repeatedly suffering from dryness and pain in your mouth and throat, you may be suffering from an underlying chronic problem associated with it.

What is dry mouth?

Dry mouth clinically termed xerostomia is a chronic dryness of the mouth characterized by a vastly decreased or absent rate of saliva flow or production. Xerostomia is not a disease, but rather a sign of a much larger problem or a side-effect of certain disorders or undefined treatment and medication protocols. It is one of the most common oral complaints that affects nearly half the population of the elderly and about one-fifth of young adults.

It can have debilitating effects on oral health by creating an antagonistic habitat in the oral cavity leading to the proliferation of harmful bacteria and even fungi, in some grossly compromised cases.

Role of saliva

Saliva is a quintessential component of the body crucial for maintaining the health and hygiene of the mouth. Saliva functions to protect the teeth by wiping out any stray or bad bacteria that has been left behind after food consumption. Saliva also possesses other oral and bodily functions like aiding with digestion, pH control, lubrication of the oral cavity, antimicrobial activity, and maintenance of the integrity of the oral mucosa.

In cases where enough saliva is not produced, the mouth gets dry and uncomfortable. The loss of saliva creates an alarmingly acidic environment in the mouth and leads to injury and deterioration of the soft as well as the hard tissues of the mouth. Your immune system is disrupted and your mouth becomes prone to infections and bacterial diseases that could have been fended off by adequate saliva.

Signs and symptoms of xerostomia

Dry mouth does not raise any huge flags if it occurs periodically or once in a while. However, if the feeling does not go away and has been echoing any of these symptoms stated by the American Academy of Oral Medicine, you should visit a dentist for screening as soon as possible.

    • A sticky, dry feeling in the mouth or throat
    • Thick, ropey saliva
    • A burning or tingling sensation in the mouth
    • A dry, grooved and inflamed tongue
    • Mouth sores and cracking of the corner of the mouth
    • Chapped or cracked lips
    • Gum irritation and the onset of gum disease
    • Bad breath or halitosis
    • Altered taste sensation
    • Trouble speaking or swallowing
    • Increased frequency of tooth decay
    • Sore throat
    • Fungal infections in the mouth (Thrush)
    • Salivary gland infection (Sialadenitis)

What causes xerostomia?

Dry mouth and sore throats at night could be a result of these unresolved issues:

  • Medication

Xerostomia can appear as an unfortunate side-effect of about 400 different medications, according to research conducted by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR). Medications for high blood pressure, anti-depressants, antihistamines, and appetite supplements can cause the uprise of mouth and throat dryness. If you suspect your medications to be causing xerostomia, contact your doctor for an alternative.

  • Radiation Therapy

Chemotherapy drugs alter the amount and rate of saliva production. This may be temporary or permanent depending on the dose of radiation the person was exposed to. Almost 100% of all cancer patients who have had radiation therapy in their head and neck region usually suffer from dry mouth.

  • Sjögren’s Syndrome

Sjögren’s syndrome is a chronic autoimmune disorder that is characterized by dry eyes and dry mouth. In this condition, the body’s immune system attacks the salivary secretory glands and inhibits the release of saliva. Women are more commonly affected as compared to men. The prevalence of xerostomia in women is almost twice as much as in men with a whopping 19.1% in women and 11.91% seen in men. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders, one to four million people in the US are affected by Sjögren’s syndrome and its by-product, dry mouth.

  • Mouth breathing:

Breathing through the mouth may prove necessary during nasal congestions, but if you are constantly engaging in mouth breathing, it can lead to drying of the mouth especially at night. It may occur as a result of obstructive sleep apnea, breathing difficulties, and the use of oral appliances such as dental retainers or other orthodontic appliances. In developing children, mouth breathing can also cause various dental and facial deformities.

  • Dehydration:

As a result of excessive loss of fluid coupled with poor intake, especially due to nausea and vomiting, the mouth may feel dry and senseless. You might also suffer from dehydration and dry mouth if you sweat profusely or during hot summer days.

  • Increasing age:

People above the age of 65 have also shown considerable development and rise of dryness in the mouth over the years. In fact, about a 44% increase in dry mouth conditions has been seen in the elderly. This can happen due to a slowed down or dysfunctional salivary gland, producing saliva at a constricted rate.

  • Stress:

Oftentimes during stressful situations or fleeting moments of nervousness, a person can be afflicted with low salivary production or dry mouth.

  • Smoking and alcohol: 

The chemicals in cigarettes and other tobacco products slow down saliva production which leads to a cascade of dental problems, whereas a significant amount of liquor when ingested can dry out your mouth and cause your symptoms to escalate. It is also a sign that the body is dehydrated and results due to the redistribution of fluids.

  • Drug use:

Recreational drug use such as methamphetamine can lead to dry mouth and widescale damage to the dentition, in a phenomenon known as “meth mouth”. Marijuana can also cause dry mouth.

What are the possible remedies for xerostomia?

4Smile brings to you a triage plan to help you get rid of your mouth dryness

    1. Drink plenty of fluids (at least 8 glasses per day) to prevent dehydration
    2. Stock up on sugar-free gums that stimulate saliva flow
    3. Lay off mouth-drying habits such as excessive caffeine intake, smoking, alcohol, and recreational drugs
    4. Get a humidifier to keep your mouth moist
    5. Breathe through your nose and not the mouth
    6. Maintain proper oral hygiene by brushing and flossing regularly
    7. Try over-the-counter saliva substitutes for short-term relief
    8. Avoid medications that may worsen the condition

If your mouth constantly feels like it has been sucked out of any and all moisture and you feel parched routinely, make sure you seek out remedies for your condition before it gets out of hand. Contact 4Smile to get more information on your mouth dryness.

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