What Causes Dry Mouth

Featured / Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

When mentioned in television ads it is most likely associated with thirst or dehydration. While drinking a cold, thirst quenching, beverage may provide temporary relief, persistent dry mouth is a cause for concern and requires treatment.

Dry mouth, medically known as xerostomia, can be a symptom of a serious health condition or disease. Xerostomia occurs when saliva production decreases. Since saliva production is necessary for digestion, controlling oral bacteria, preventing tooth decay and making it possible to speak, chew, and swallow — the decrease in saliva can make the simplest daily activities difficult and even painful. It can also lead to mouth sores, infection, cracked lips, and a coated tongue.

So what actually causes dry mouth? One of the most common causes is medication. Often, dry mouth is a side effect of taking medications, such as antihistamines, decongestants, and diuretics, among others. Dry mouth can also be a side effect of medical treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation. If you experience dry mouth due to medical treatment, it is best to consult with your doctor or dentist to treat the condition.

Some experience dry mouth due to lifestyle choices such as smoking or chewing tobacco, which can cause the mouth to become increasingly dry. Also, nerve damage due to injury or a surgical procedure can cause damage to your salivary glands, which can also result in dry mouth.

Having dry mouth doesn’t necessarily mean that your saliva production has stopped completely. A simple decrease in saliva is enough to cause a change in your health. Below are a few symptoms you should be aware of to determine if you have dry mouth.

  • Bad breath
  • Thickening saliva
  • Altered taste
  • Frequent tooth decay
  • Gum irritation or gum disease
  • Dryness in the mouth or throat
  • Difficulty chewing and swallowing

Fact: Dry mouth is not caused by old age. This is a common misconception. The elderly have increased chances of experiencing dry mouth due to the increased amount of medications and subsequent side effects.