What Causes Dry Mouth?

Aug 20, 2021

Have you been experiencing dry mouth? If so, you may be wondering what causes dry mouth and what you can do about it. Aside from being an annoyance, dry mouth can cause serious dental issues. Read on to learn more about causes, treatments, and dental care as related to dry mouth.

Potential Causes

Dry mouth, clinically referred to as xerostomia, can be caused by a variety of conditions and behaviors. For example, many medications have the side effect of dry mouth. This includes many medications for blood pressure and other common conditions. Additionally, going through more serious medical treatment, such as radiation therapy, can cause this side effect. 

Experiencing dry mouth may also be a symptom of an underlying condition. For example, if you suffer from “silent” acid reflux, where you don’t experience pain, you might instead notice a dryer mouth. If you breathe through your mouth at right, which may be caused by sleep apnea or congestion, you may also end up with dry mouth. 

Dry mouth can also be behavioral – it may occur as a result of dehydration if you’re not drinking enough fluids. Dehydration isn’t always the cause of dry mouth, but sipping water can still help wash away bacteria in your mouth until your saliva flow returns to normal.
While dry mouth isn’t a serious medical condition on its own, because it is sometimes a symptom of another underlying medical problem that requires treatment, it’s worth founding out what is causing your issues. It can also lead to additional complications like tooth decay.

Foods and Drinks to Alleviate Dry Mouth

Some people struggle to drink plain water. In that case, sugar-free juices, reduced-sugar sports drinks, club soda, and herbal tea with lemon are good beverage choices. A soft, high-protein diet is recommended for people with dry mouth.
Chewing and sucking can also stimulate saliva flow. If you’re experiencing dry mouth, try sucking on ice cubes or sugar-free ice pops. Sugar-free hard candy or sugarless gum that contains xylitol can also help stimulate saliva production.

Dental Damage from Dry Mouth

Dry mouth can be a serious risk to your dental health. Here are some other dental issues caused by dry mouth:

Gum disease: Gum disease is a common complication of dry mouth. Caused by a bacterial infection from plaque and tartar buildup at the gums, gum disease is dangerous to oral health because it increases the risk of tooth decay, allowing decay to reach the tooth roots. Gum disease may even spread to the structures supporting the teeth, resulting in loose teeth and tooth loss.

Tooth decay: Dry mouth allows harmful acids, plaque, and food remnants to stay on the teeth, often resulting in tooth decay.

Enamel erosion: Acids left on the teeth as a result of dry mouth can lead to enamel erosion, a loss of the protective layer of the teeth. As the enamel erodes, the teeth are left vulnerable to tooth decay and root canal infection.

Dental staining: Dry mouth increases the risk of dental staining and discoloration as a result of enamel erosion and increased levels of plaque and food debris on the teeth.

What to Do About Dry Mouth

If you have severe dry mouth, your doctor or dentist may prescribe medication that stimulates saliva. Your doctor may prescribe medications such as pilocarpine or cevimeline to stimulate saliva production. If you’ve been experiencing dry mouth, it’s a good idea to see your doctor about any potential underlying issues. And get to your dentist right away to ensure your dry mouth hasn’t caused damage to your teeth and gums.