Dry mouth – also called xerostomia – is caused by insufficient saliva flow. It is not a disease but a symptom of a medical disorder or a side effect of certain medications such as antihistamines, decongestants, pain relievers, diuretics, and others. You can find more information below.

What is dry mouth?

Dry mouth, also known as xerostomia , is a condition that occurs when saliva production decreases sharply or stops altogether. Saliva is a clear, watery solution that is always present in the mouth, and its function is to lubricate our mouth. So we can enjoy what we eat and talk comfortably. It also helps prevent decay by removing food and plaque from the surface of the teeth.

People with dry mouth are at risk for tooth decay, gum disease, and a number of other diseases that affect the soft tissues in the mouth. Eating habits can also be severely affected because it can be difficult to enjoy food.

What causes dry mouth?

Dry mouth is more common in certain groups, such as smokers with reduced saliva production, and can sometimes be seen in those who take drugs and alcohol. Dry mouth is more common in older women than men. Especially women who are in or near menopause may experience dryness of the mouth and lips due to changing hormones and the associated decreased saliva.

Other common causes are:

  • Pregnancy: Hormone change during pregnancy can also cause dry mouth. Especially in the first three months, dry mouth may occur despite increased fluid consumption.
  • Coffee and alcohol: In addition to nicotine, increased coffee or alcohol consumption can also cause dry mouth.
  • Lack of fluid: If you drink too little or lose too much fluid, for example due to excessive sweating or extreme heat during sports, this can result in decreased saliva production and saliva in the mouth.
  • Persistent stress on the voice: For example, if you have to talk or sing loudly and for a long time, the mucous membranes in your mouth will dry out because too much air flows through them.
  • Mouth breathing : In the long run, mouth breathing often causes dry mouth, as well as chapped corners of the mouth and chapped lips. Especially children often have this habit.
  • Snoring: When you snore, you first breathe through your mouth. People who snore often feel dry mouth and a hoarse voice in the morning.
  • Dry ambient air: Especially in the cold season, the dry environment dries the mucous membranes in the mouth and respiratory tract. This results in a dry nose, dry throat and mouth. Dusty air can also cause dry mouth.
  • Stress: Dry mouth is sometimes a sign of nervousness because the body shuts down saliva production due to excitement.
  • Spicy foods: For example, foods with plenty of pepper or black pepper cause a burning sensation in the mouth and throat, which causes these areas to dry out and increases the need for fluids.
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dry mouth due to medication

The potential causes of dryness in the mouth are many, and this is sometimes due to the medications used. Possible medications that can cause dryness in the mouth are given below:

  • antihypertensive
  • painkiller
  • Antiemetics (medicines for nausea and upset stomach)
  • Sedatives, hypnotics and antispasmodics (sleeping pills and sedatives)
  • appetite suppressant drugs
  • antibiotics
  • diuretics
  • Psychotropic drugs (especially neuroleptics and antidepressants)
  • Antihistamines (medication for allergy sufferers)
  • Antiepileptics (for epilepsy patients)
  • Parkinson’s drugs
  • Cancer chemotherapy and radiation

Some illegal drugs and substances that are forbidden to use can also cause dry mouth.

What causes dry mouth while sleeping at night and in the morning?

There are various causes of dry mouth at night or in the morning. First of all, it is natural for the body to slow down the formation of saliva at night. Many people wake up in the morning with a dry mouth and foul-smelling breath.

However, it is usually caused by allergies that cause you to breathe through your mouth, such as with a cold or flu .

Sleep apnea , in which breathing temporarily stops or slows, or a curved nasal septum may also be responsible for dry mouth.

Also, using alcohol or drugs in the evening or at night causes the muscles to relax. As a result, you sleep with your mouth open at night, causing the mucous membranes to dry out.

Diseases as a cause of dry mouth

In addition to the mostly harmless causes mentioned, there can be serious diseases behind dry mouth. For example, these could be:

  • Runny nose: A stuffy nose, often as a result of allergies, a cold, or a sinus infection, causes increased mouth breathing and dryness.
  • Fever, diarrhea and infections: If you have an infection, diarrhea or fever, the body needs a lot of fluids. Therefore, in these cases, the mouth can become dry.
  • Autoimmune diseases: Autoimmune diseases such as Sjögren’s syndrome are particularly common among women after menopause and can cause dry mouth.
  • Thyroid disease: Often dry mucous membranes and thus a dry mouth can indicate the possibility of thyroid disease.
  • Restricted chewing ability: Some conditions, such as dental and gum diseases or dentures, prevent the food from being chewed sufficiently. Swallowing without chewing enough can cause dry mouth.
  • Diabetes: Any type of diabetes (diabetes) – especially type 2 diabetes – initially presents with symptoms such as excessive thirst, dry mouth and frequent urination.
  • HIV/AIDS: One of the symptoms of AIDS caused by the HIV virus is dryness in the throat and mouth.
  • Eating disorders and malnutrition: Prolonged fasting or frequent vomiting results in the removal of many fluids from the body and may result in dry mouth.
  • Salivary gland tumor: Both malignant and benign salivary gland tumors can impair the salivary glands’ ability to function, thereby reducing saliva production.
  • Vitamin B deficiency: Typical symptoms of vitamin B deficiency are burning sensation in the tongue and dry mouth.
  • Depression and anxiety: In depressed people, dryness and burning sensation in the mouth is a typical symptom that usually occurs at the onset of the illness.
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What are the symptoms accompanying dry mouth?

Symptoms to watch out for in cases of dryness in the mouth are:

  • Frequent and severe thirst
  • tongue redness
  • Painful, burning sensation in the mouth and especially on the tongue
  • Pain in swallowing food and water or difficulty speaking
  • sore inside the mouth or at the corners of the lips
  • taste change
  • sore throat or hoarseness
  • bad breath
  • Sudden appearance of dental problems or difficulty wearing dentures
  • recurrent fungal infections in the mouth

When should you see a doctor?

In many cases, such as stage fright, dry mouth is perfectly normal and nothing to worry about. However, if you notice any other changes, you should seek medical advice. You should see a doctor if:

  • If your dry mouth persists for a long time and recurs
  • If this condition started after a certain drug
  • If the salivary glands are swollen
  • If you have gum problems or toothache
  • If you have problems chewing, swallowing or speaking
  • If, in addition to dry mouth, you experience symptoms such as frequent urination, a strong sense of thirst, or headaches and body aches
  • If there is a burning sensation in the mouth in addition to dry mouth
  • If you also experience dry nose and eyes
  • If you are under extreme psychological pressure
  • If you experience nausea, vomiting or visual disturbances

Which doctor treats dry mouth?

For dry mouth, you can first go to a family doctor and if necessary, the doctor will direct you to a relevant doctor. If the problem is caused by tooth and gum diseases, you may need to see a dentist, or if it is caused by different reasons, you may need to see an internal medicine doctor.

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How is the cause of dry mouth diagnosed?

Dry mouth can be diagnosed by your doctor or dentist. In addition to taking a comprehensive medical history and asking for a description of your symptoms, your dentist will look for signs of tooth and gum disease. If he does not encounter anything that concerns his field, he may recommend a referral to a relevant doctor, usually an internist.

The internist will examine your mouth in detail to evaluate the flow of saliva and will also look for cracks and sores inside the mouth and in the lip area. It will also take into account what medication you are currently taking, prescription or over-the-counter, and if you are receiving any medical treatment for a particular condition.

How is dry mouth treated?

Treatment of dry mouth depends on the severity of the problem, and often the problem will persist unless the cause is eliminated.

For example, if you are undergoing radiation therapy for head or neck cancer, you will continue to experience dry mouth as long as the treatment continues.

In some cases, radiation therapy can also permanently affect the salivary glands’ ability to produce saliva.

Being aware of this, the treatment of dry mouth problem focuses on the following three main areas:

  • Alleviating the symptoms of the condition
  • If there are tooth and gum diseases, treat them and prevent them from starting again.
  • Trying to increase saliva flow

In some cases, while your doctor is treating the cause, your dentist may be able to deal with the problem together by treating possible tooth and gum problems.

What is good for dry mouth?

Dry mouth symptoms can be relieved to some extent if you follow some of the following tips:

  • quit smoking
  • keeping your mouth constantly moist
  • If you are chewing gum, choose sugar-free ones
  • Using saliva-producing drugs, in consultation with your pharmacist or doctor
  • Suck on sugar-free ice cubes
  • Always use alcohol- and peroxide-free liquids to moisten your mouth
  • avoiding salty foods, dry foods, and foods and drinks containing high doses of sugar
  • Using moisturizer on your lips to prevent them from drying and cracking
  • Using a soft toothbrush on teeth and gums to prevent further damage to your mouth

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