You have no idea why, but your mouth often feels dry, sticky and just plain uncomfortable. You find you’re thirsty all the time, and it seems like your throat is always sore. You’ve even started to notice your breathe doesn’t smell so good these days.
These are all signs that you might have dry mouth, also known as xerostomia, and it’s not a problem you should ignore.
Your mouth becomes dry when you don’t make enough saliva—and you need saliva to prevent infection. You also need saliva to cleanse your mouth and digest food. If you’re not making enough saliva, you up your chances of developing gum disease, tooth decay and various mouth infections.
The good news is dry mouth is very treatable, but before you can treat dry mouth you need to know what’s causing it. Here are the 8 most common causes….
- A medication side effect. A whole host of prescription and nonprescription drugs cause dry mouth, including common drugs that treat allergies, depression, pain and anxiety, just to name a few. Muscle relaxants and sedatives can also cause dry mouth. If you think medication you’re taking is causing the problem, talk to your doctor. He or she might be able to adjust your dose or even find another medication that doesn’t list dry mouth as a side effect.
- A disease or infection side effect. Many medical conditions cause dry mouth, including diabetes, hypertension, HIV/AIDS, anemia, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
- A side effect of treatment for various conditions. During certain medical treatments, the salivary glands that make saliva can be damaged, reducing the amount of saliva produced. This often happens to patients who undergo radiation to the head and neck or chemotherapy treatments for cancer.
- Nerve damage. If you’ve ever injured your head or neck, it could lead to dry mouth. Had surgery in that area? It could be the reason you’re dealing with dry mouth today.
- Smoking. Smoking cigarettes can reduce the amount of saliva you make, leading to that uncomfortable dry feeling that comes with dry mouth. Chewing tobacco has the same effect.
- Breathing with your mouth open. If you tend to breathe with your mouth open, it can make your dry mouth worse. Make an effort to breathe with your mouth closed.
- Surgical removal of salivary glands. If you’ve had your salivary glands removed, chances are you’re dealing with the mouth sores, dry, red tongue and dry nasal passages that come with dry mouth.
- Dehydration. When you become dehydrated, you’ll likely also experience dry mouth. Various conditions lead to dehydration and ultimately dry mouth, such as vomiting, excessive sweating, fever, diarrhea, blood loss and burns.
If you’re experiencing dry mouth, talk to your dentist about your symptoms. Your dentist will likely prescribe an oral rinse to help get the problem under control, or a medication to boost your saliva production. The bottom line is, don’t ignore it. You don’t have to live with the many problems dry mouth causes, from trouble speaking and eating to mouth sores and constant thirst.