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Dry Mouth: Symptoms and Reasons

Saliva! An overlooked part of all of us. Acting as a lubricant, it makes chewing and swallowing easier- allows us to savor food better. The enzymes in it are the very first step to digestion of food. Saliva also helps control bacteria and fungal growth in our mouth by neutralizing the acid and helping wash away food particle remains. The absence of saliva would have caused increased growth of bacteria on the teeth and eventually, tooth decays. Thus saliva also prevents tooth decays and keeps the teeth healthy. Were you aware that this watery thing in our mouths had so many functions? I definitely did not!

What is Xerostomia?

Dryness in the mouth that occurs due to thirst or stress or nervousness etc is usually temporary and non-threatening. However, if you constantly feel the lack of saliva in your mouth leading to the dry tongue or if you frequently find it difficult to eat, chew, swallow or speak, then, unfortunately, you could be a victim of Xerostomia, also known as “Dry Mouth” Syndrome or as dry mouth in common speech.

Take Note of the Top Symptoms:

In addition to just having a dry/red/rough tongue, other leading symptoms like sore/dry throat, chapped lips, mouth infections, mouth sores, tooth decay, bad breath, open mouth breathing and snoring during night, increased thirst, or a burning sensation in the mouth, are also strong indications of dry mouth and should be considered as a matter of concern. Unfortunately, there is no prevention or permanent cure to dry mouth. However, the symptoms can be naturally treated with proven methods.

Is Dry Mouth a Part of Aging?

Though it is true that older people are noted to have higher tendencies to be victims of dry mouth, it is a common misconception that dry mouth is a normal part of aging. According to research, more than a whopping 300 OTC medicines alone lead to dry mouth as their side effects. With older people consuming a higher number of medicines, they are prone to a higher risk of being victims to dry mouth; and this has got nothing to do with their growing age as a root cause. So what causes this condition? While there are few unrecognized causes, below are 11 identified causes.

Underlying Reasons for Dry Mouth:

1. Hyposalivation: Secretion of saliva by the salivary glands either reduce or almost stops due to certain reasons which result in this condition. Though this may look like the most prominent causes of dry mouth, there are many other equally weighing reasons that are held responsible. Read further to know more.

2. Adverse Effect of Medicines: Numerous OTC products, as well as a lot of very widely used doctor-prescribed medicines, could lead to dry mouth as their side effects. Medicines for high blood pressure, depression, bladder control measures are few of the most common medicines which cause Xerostomia.

3. Mouth Breathing: While most of us may occasionally breathe through our mouths only after exercising or during respiratory attacks or during sleep, there are people who barely use their nose. Either due to smaller nasal cavities, deviated septum, enlarged tonsils, abnormal size/shape of the nose/jaw or due to other existing reasons, some people tend to breathe through their mouth throughout the day. These people are prone to dry mouth.

4. Diseases: Lastly, some diseases like Sjogren’s Syndrome, HIV/AIDS, Diabetes, Alzheimer’s Disease, Hypertension, Parkinson’s Disease, Stroke, Mumps etc, are proven to have an impact on saliva. Psychogenic causes may also act as a cause.

5. Nerve Damage: Injuries, accidents or surgeries may cause damage to one or more nerves. With this damage, nerves fail to send or effectively send instructions (in order to secrete saliva) to the salivary glands and thus the salivary glands stop or reduce secretions accordingly.

6. Dehydration: Our body is 75% water and is probably the first-aid solution for every ailment in the body. Likewise, sufficient water in the body makes a positive difference to salivary secretions and a lack of water in the body may lead to fever, excessive sweating, vomiting, diarrhea, blood loss, burns, all of which may further cause dry mouth.

7. Habits and Lifestyle: Smoking, using marijuana, tranquilizers, drinking alcohol frequently, consuming carbonated drinks or caffeinated beverages, chewing too much gum especially those with sugar contents etc can be top habits which may cause drying up of the mouth.

8. Radiotherapy and Chemotherapy: Salivary glands are exposed to radiation during radiotherapy and the drugs used to treat cancer in Chemotherapy, both make saliva thicker. And since these are usually long term treatments, they making the mouthfeel more dry than always and eventually lead to Xerostomia.

9. Removal of Salivary Glands: Sometimes, due to lack of other treatment methods, some conditions may demand the removal of salivary glands. While weighing between salivary secretions and more crucial factors, it may seem fit to have saliva compromised. In such cases, another gate is opened to dry mouth.

10. Women and Menopause: While dry mouth can be culprits for both men and women, a number of women tend to suffer as compared to men. Especially during menopause, there is a disturbance in hormone secretions and this may cause reduced secretions of saliva.

MedPlus hopes that this helped you figure out the cause of your dry mouth.

Written by MedPlus