Tips for preventing dry mouth

At Aspen Dental, we do anything to help patients stay healthy and comfortable. Our dental care teams are experienced at treating the various causes of dry mouth. Let’s explore some causes and remedies of dry mouth. If you’re experiencing dry mouth, don’t keep it to yourself. Tell your care team members so they can help.

Xerostomia (more commonly known as “dry mouth”) is a common oral problem with many possible causes. It may seem like a minor problem when compared to other oral health issues, but learning how to prevent dry mouth is more important than you might think. Not only is dry mouth annoying and uncomfortable, but it can cause significant oral health problems down the line. So, it’s important to identify and treat those causes as soon as possible.

All our mouths get dry from time to time. Usually, a sip of water is all it takes to feel better. If your mouth is still chronically dry, check with your dentist to see if there’s a deeper issue. Here’s some useful info about dry mouth:

Common dry mouth symptoms include:

  • Frequent thirst

  • Sore throat

  • Dry, cracked lips or skin at the corners of the mouth

  • Mouth sores

  • A dry, raw tongue

  • Trouble chewing and swallowing

  • Bad breath

What causes dry mouth?

Many things can cause a mouth to get dry. To stop dry mouth, it's important to identify what is causing it in the first place. Some common causes for dry mouth include:

  • Dehydration: If you’re not drinking enough water (or else you’re becoming dehydrated as a result of vomiting, diarrhea, blood loss or excess sweating) you will commonly experience dry mouth.

  • Illness: Dry mouth can often be a side effect of many medical conditions, including Alzheimer’s, anemia, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, high blood pressure (hypertension), Parkinson’s and rheumatoid arthritis. If you’ve recently suffered a stroke, you may also experience dry mouth.

  • Medications: Many prescription (and over-the-counter) drugs can also cause dry mouth as a side effect. This is common in medications used to treat colds, anxiety, depression, allergies, epilepsy, asthma and more. Be sure to refer to the possible side effects on your medication label to discover if dry mouth is a known side effect.

  • Nerve damage: In some cases, dry mouth may be a result of nerve damage to the head and/or neck, whether through injury or as a result of surgery.

  • Lifestyle: Certain aspects of your lifestyle may also cause dry mouth. Smoking or chewing tobacco can affect how much saliva you produce. Breathing with your mouth open can cause dry mouth as well and may become more noticeable just after you wake up.

Tips for preventing dry mouth

  • Drink plenty of water: Unless there are other potential causes like medication or an existing illness, dehydration is probably what’s causing your dry mouth. Fortunately, there’s a simple solution: drink plenty of water. Not only will it help keep your mouth moist, drinking water can contribute to weight loss, energy, focus and concentration, healthy skin, and healthy kidneys.

  • Talk with your doctor: If you think your dry mouth is a result of medication you’re taking, your doctor may be able to adjust the dosage or suggest an alternative.

  • Chew sugar-free gum (or sucking on sugar-free hard candies): Chewing sugar-free gum or sucking on sugar-free candies can help stimulate production of salvia which, in turn, helps stop dry mouth.

  • Use an artificial saliva substitute: These can be easily found over-the-counter at your local drug store and can be helpful for people with chronic dry mouth as a side effect of an illness.

  • Brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste and use a fluoride rinse.

  • Breathe through your nose: Since breathing through your mouth can be a big cause of dry mouth, breathing through your nose can help prevent it. This, of course, is harder to control at night when you’re asleep. Try using a room humidifier or vaporizer that can help add moisture to the air while you sleep and help reduce dry mouth.

  • Other lifestyle changes: If you smoke or chew tobacco, there are many health benefits to stopping, and preventing dry mouth is one of them. Caffeine also can cause dry mouth. So, set a limit on how many caffeinated drinks you have in a day.

Dry mouth is uncomfortable. But it can even be more serious. Dry mouth can also be a cause of tooth decay, gingivitis and mouth infections. This is because, in addition to moistening our mouths and helping us digest our food, saliva prevents infection by controlling bacteria in the mouth. So, for better health overall, make sure to talk to your dentist if you’re experiencing dry mouth.

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