Digestion begins in the mouth, where we chew our food and enzymes in our saliva begin breaking down nutrients. Sounds simple enough – but what if we have a dry mouth?
Dry mouth is undeniably uncomfortable, and a mouth with moisture and saliva is something we take for granted until it’s gone. A dry mouth makes it hard to eat, talk and even sleep. A dry mouth combined with persistent thirst can be an early sign of diabetes, but most often the root causes are less worrisome.
Sometimes it’s lifestyle habits that cause dry mouth. Sometimes it’s an issue with our salivary glands. Age, diet, medications, and drug use can also lead to dry mouth. If you can eliminate the root cause, then your dry mouth should clear up naturally on its own. Otherwise, there are plenty of simple fixes.
Dry mouth can be caused by any of the following:
Dry mouth is a surprisingly common side-effect of many medications. Anti-allergy, anti-anxiety, and antidepressant medications are especially prone to resulting in dry mouth.
As some of you may realize, growing older certainly comes with some annoying side-effects. As we age, we may take medication that causes dry mouth, take in inadequate nutrition, or develop long-term health problems that impair our mouth’s ability to produce saliva.
- Nerve damage
Trauma to the head and neck region can interfere with our nervous system’s signaling to nerves. This can result in persistent dry mouth.
- Tobacco and Alcohol
These two habits do your body no good. Both dehydrate you and interfere with your body’s normal functions. Chronic smokers, for example, often report dry mouth. Inhaling hot smoke, chemicals and tar have negative effects on the delicate ecosystem inside your mouth. If you smoke and are trying to quit, take motivation in knowing your mouth will feel much better if you succeed.
- Drug Use
Many recreational drugs result in an icky, dry feeling in your mouth. Marijuana smokers often refer to “cotton mouth” or “the pasties” when describing the classic case of dry mouth that comes after smoking. This is because cannabinoids in marijuana bind to receptors in our brains, preventing proper signaling between brain and body. Our brains can’t signal for our mouths to produce more saliva, even though we can sense the dryness. Beyond simply not feeling good, dry mouth can have serious consequences for your dental health. Saliva is essential for keeping our mouth moist, preventing food from sticking to teeth and keeping the biome of bacteria happy. Without enough saliva, patients often see increased plaque, cavities, gum disease, and tooth decay. They can also experience thrush, which is essentially a yeast infection in the mouth that can come about when yeast bacteria proliferate. It can be hard to fully eradicate, and patients can also experience mouth sores and dry lips.
Whatever the reason for your dry mouth, there are measures you can take to get some relief.
- Keep some sugar free gum or candy with you at all times, and pop some in your mouth when you’re feeling dry. Sucking or chewing on a piece of candy stimulates your salivary glands.
- Drink more water. Sometimes the most obvious tips are the best ones. If you aren’t drinking enough water, then you’ll definitely feel it in your mouth. And chances are, you’re not drinking enough water. Tap water, filtered water, or sparkling water can all help. Some people find that regular water doesn’t cure their dry mouth as well as carbonated water does, but it’s all up to personal preference.
- Keep up a good dental health regimen. Proper brushing, flossing, and mouthwash twice a day will keep your mouth fresh and clean. This can reduce the bad bacteria that build up in your mouth and exacerbate dry mouth symptoms. Part of a good dental health routine is also seeing a dentist at least once a year. When you’re in the dentist’s chair you can explain your dry mouth issues, and your dentist can keep them in mind while they examine your mouth.
- Try to breathe through your nose rather than your mouth. This will take some getting used to but breathing through your nose is more natural and better for your body. You won’t dehydrate your mouth that way either.
- Use a humidifier for your home or workplace. Your issues could stem from overzealous climate control sucking all the moisture out of the air. Installing a humidifier could bring you some relief.
- If your dry mouth persists, there are over-the-counter saliva substitutes you can try. They work in a variety of ways; some release chemicals that promote moisture in your mouth, some release enzymes and some re-wet the mouth. Saliva substitutes could be a good option if simpler methods aren’t working.
Dry mouth is distracting, unpleasant, and bad for your digestion and oral health. Luckily, there are some simple but powerful steps you can take to bring relief to that dry feeling. There are many causes of dry mouth, so if you suspect lifestyle choices could be bringing it about, then look at eliminating some of those habits. Whatever the case, there are simple, easy methods to relieve that icky feeling and restore your confidence.
If you’re experiencing dry mouth and want an expert opinion, call Dawson Dental at 1-877-542-2043, or contact us here.