Dry Mouth: What Causes It?
Dry mouth or xerostomia makes the insides of your mouth painful and dry. The dryness can be felt up to the throat. It is actually a very uncomfortable feeling. This is caused by the lower production of saliva which is the natural lubricant of the mouth. Cracking of lips, tender gums and mouth infections are the common disease accompanied by this abnormal condition. You will also find it hard to speak and masticate food if you are suffering from this condition. Dry mouth affects 10% of the world population in their 30’s which are mostly women and 25% of older adults.
What do you mean by xerostomia?
Xerostomia is the medical term for dry mouth, in layman’s term. It can be mild or severe. Dry mouth is a symptom, not the disease; so that means there is an underlying issue which has caused the dry mouth. Xerostomia is caused by many factors from diseases to drug use. Analyzing your lifestyle can determine the root of this condition. Now, if you get dry mouth once in a while due to something you ate or because you are under stress, that is not xerostomia. Xerostomia is something that you may have most of the time.
Why is saliva important to you?
Saliva has a lot of benefits to give to you. It moisturizes the mouth. It contains neutralizing agents to counteract the acidity of the reflux into the mouth. It helps to prevent infections in the mouth. It also enhances the tongue’s ability to taste. It aids in digesting food. It helps prevent cavities. So saliva is the most important component to prevent dry mouth or xerostomia. One of the symptoms that patients report from this is burning sensation of the tongue.
What causes dry mouth?
There are several things that can cause dry mouth. Some are caused by drugs, others are complications of other health problems. To know more about dry mouth, here are the most common things that can trigger it:
- Medications. There are literally hundreds of drugs being prescribed by your doctor or even the over the counter drugs which have dry mouth as its side effect. Examples of these are hypertension medication, diuretics, beta-blockers, anti-inflammatory, anti-depressant and antihistamines, muscle relaxants, epilepsy medications and even cold and flu medications.
- Diabetes. This is a disease that can cause dry mouth in about one-third of the population with diabetes.
- Stress and depression and anxiety. These conditions have shown to cause dry mouth and what is worse is that the medication used for these conditions actually cause dry mouth as well. So best will be to try to decrease your anxiety and stress with natural remedies like meditation, breathing and exercise.
- Auto-immune diseases. There are several auto-immune diseases or systemic diseases that cause xerostomia and they are: Lupus, Sjogren’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, AIDS/HIV, scleroderma, diabetes, anemia, Alzheimer’s disease, hypothyroidism, parkinson’s disease, and cystic fibrosis.
- Radiation and Chemotherapy. These treatments used for cancer especially head and neck can reduced the production of saliva tremendously. They damage the salivary glands which in turn can’t produce enough saliva.
- Smoking. People who smoke cigarettes or cigars or chew tobacco generally have dry mouth because there is a chemical in tobacco which hinders the salivary glands to produce saliva.
- Dehydration. Not drinking enough liquids, especially water and conditions like high fever, diarrhea, vomiting can cause dehydration (excessive loss of body water) and dry mouth.
Keeping your mouth hydrated is a one of the keys to good oral health and preventing xerstomia. Keep an eye on your medicines and emotions and you will keep your mouth healthy and well lubricated.
By: Ladan Zinati