Do you feel like you don't have enough saliva to keep your mouth wet? You may even have problems chewing, swallowing and even talking. If so, you may be one of the millions of people battling dry mouth, or xerostomia.
Women and older adults are most commonly affected by dry mouth. It can be a side-effect of pregnancy and is a normal sign of aging. But there are a lot other dry mouth causes.
So, let’s take a look at some of the complications and causes of dry mouth and what you can do about it.
Symptoms of dry mouth include:
A sticky, dry feeling in the mouth
Trouble eating or speaking
A burning feeling in the mouth
A dry feeling in the throat
A dry, rough tongue
Dry Mouth Complications
If you don't have enough saliva and develop dry mouth, this can lead to complications like:
- Increased plaque, tooth decay and gum disease
- Mouth sores
- Yeast infection in your mouth (thrush)
- Sores or split skin at the corners of your mouth or cracked lips
- Poor nutrition from having problems with chewing and swallowing
Dry Mouth and Diabetes
A dry mouth can exacerbate the side effects of diabetes, which will then lead to an increase in glucose levels, wreaking havoc on the body. A dry mouth is not only a symptom of high blood sugar, but it can also be the cause of it.
Causes of Dry Mouth
Your dry mouth could be caused by something somewhat simple like sleeping with your mouth open. But there are other things that cause it to develop, like:
- Smoking—chewing or smoking tobacco increases your risk
- Cancer Treatment—radiation therapy can damage salivary glands
- Nerve Damage—an injury or surgery to the head or neck can cause dry mouth
For older adults, dry mouth can be a common side effect of prescribed medications. A recent study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found a number of medications linked to dry mouth. They include medications used to treat:
- Urinary Incontinence
- Diuretics used to treat high blood pressure
In fact, medications used to treat urinary incontinence are nearly six times more likely to cause dry mouth.
Your treatment depends on the cause of your dry mouth. Your doctor or dentist may:
- Change medications that cause dry mouth
- Prescribe a new medication that stimulates saliva production
- Give you a mouthwash that promotes saliva production
You should avoid mouthwashes containing alcohol and avoid wearing your dentures while you’re sleeping.
But eating carrots or celery may help with residual salivary gland function, and breathing through your nose as much as possible can help, too. To keep your dry mouth under control, you should conduct a daily mouth examination. Watch for unusual colored patches, tooth decay or ulcers. Report anything unusual to your doctor or dentist.
Another way to keep your health in check is by knowing your numbers. Your cholesterol, blood pressure and weight can tell you if you’re at risk for developing a serious illness or disease. You can check yours by downloading our guide “Know Your Numbers.”