Star Dental

Opening Hours

Monday: 7:00 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.

Tuesday: 7:00 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.

Wednesday: Closed

Thursday: 7:00 a.m.- 2:30 p.m.

Friday: 7:00 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.

Saturday: Closed

Sunday: Closed

Managing Dry Mouth: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Options

Mar 18, 2024
Managing Dry Mouth: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Options

Xerostomia, commonly known as dry mouth, occurs when there is insufficient saliva in the mouth. Saliva, produced by the salivary glands, serves to lubricate the mouth and aid in maintaining oral hygiene.

It is normal to experience occasional dry mouth, such as when one is dehydrated. However, persistent dry mouth, where the sensation is constant, may indicate an underlying health issue. Frequently, xerostomia is a result of certain medications, including antihistamines, decongestants, and some antidepressants, which can inhibit saliva production.

In essence, xerostomia is more than just discomfort—it can also serve as a signal to investigate potential health conditions or medication side effects that may be affecting saliva production.

Symptoms of Dry Mouth

The primary indicator of xerostomia is a sensation of stickiness in the mouth caused by insufficient saliva. This can lead to the feeling that your tongue adheres to the roof of your mouth when speaking.

Additionally, there are several other potential symptoms of dry mouth, including:

  • Bad breath: Reduced saliva can contribute to unpleasant breath odor.
  • Constant sore throat: The lack of lubrication from saliva can lead to throat irritation and a persistent sore throat.
  • Difficulty eating, speaking, or swallowing: Dryness in the mouth can make these activities uncomfortable and challenging.
  • Dry feeling in your nose: Insufficient saliva can affect the moisture levels in your nasal passages, causing a dry sensation.
  • Hoarseness: The dryness may lead to changes in your voice, resulting in hoarseness.
  • Increased thirst: Due to the lack of saliva to moisten the mouth, you may experience a heightened sensation of thirst.
  • Lip, tongue, and mouth sores or pain: Without enough saliva to protect the oral tissues, irritation, sores, or pain may develop.
  • Taste disorders: Saliva plays a role in tasting food, so a dry mouth can lead to an altered or reduced ability to taste.
  • Trouble wearing dentures: Insufficient saliva can make wearing dentures uncomfortable or difficult due to lack of lubrication.

Causes of Dry Mouth

  • Mouth breathing: Breathing through the mouth instead of the nose can dry out the mouth, as the normal humidifying effect of nasal breathing is bypassed. This can be due to nasal congestion, habit, or obstructive sleep apnea.
  • Certain medications: Some medications can interfere with saliva production, leading to dry mouth. These may include antihistamines, decongestants, antidepressants, muscle relaxants, and medications for high blood pressure.
  • Underlying health conditions: Various health conditions can contribute to xerostomia. Examples include diabetes, Sjögren's syndrome (an autoimmune disorder that affects moisture-producing glands), HIV/AIDS, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and stroke.
  • Radiation therapy, especially for head and neck cancer: Radiation treatment for cancer in the head or neck area can damage salivary glands, reducing their ability to produce saliva. This often leads to persistent dry mouth as a side effect of the therapy.
  • Chemotherapy drugs: Certain chemotherapy drugs can also affect the salivary glands, causing temporary or long-term dry mouth.
  • Dehydration: When the body is dehydrated, it affects the production of saliva. This can happen due to inadequate fluid intake, excessive sweating, fever, vomiting, or diarrhea.

Complications of Dry Mouth

  • Cavities (Dental Caries): Saliva plays a crucial role in maintaining oral health by washing away food particles and neutralizing acids produced by bacteria. With reduced saliva, the risk of cavities increases as the protective effects of saliva are diminished.
  • Gum Disease (Periodontal Disease): Without sufficient saliva to cleanse the mouth and neutralize harmful bacteria, the risk of gum disease rises. This can lead to inflammation, infection, and eventual damage to the gums and underlying bone.
  • Mouth Sores: Dry mouth can cause irritation to the oral tissues, leading to the development of mouth sores. These sores can be uncomfortable and may increase the risk of infections.
  • Cracked Lips: Lack of moisture in the mouth can extend to the lips, causing them to become dry, cracked, and painful.
  • Oral Thrush (Candidiasis): Oral thrush is a fungal infection caused by the Candida fungus. Reduced saliva can create an environment where this fungus can thrive, leading to white patches on the tongue, inner cheeks, and other areas of the mouth.

How a Dentist Detects Dry Mouth

During a dental examination, a dentist is trained to recognize signs and symptoms of xerostomia. There are several visual and practical methods they may use to assess if a patient is experiencing dry mouth:

  • Visual Examination: The dentist will visually inspect the oral cavity, paying close attention to the appearance of the tongue and inner cheeks. In cases of dry mouth, these tissues may appear dry, rough, and textured instead of the usual smooth, shiny, and moist appearance. This change in texture can be a clear indicator of reduced saliva flow.
  • Saliva Assessment: To gauge the amount of saliva being produced, the dentist may use a simple test involving a piece of gauze. By gently dabbing around the salivary glands inside the mouth, they can observe how much saliva is absorbed. If there is minimal saliva present on the gauze, it suggests decreased saliva production.
  • Observing Dental Health: Additionally, the dentist will check for signs of conditions commonly associated with dry mouth, such as cavities and gum disease. Because saliva helps protect teeth from decay and gums from infection, a lack of saliva can lead to an increased risk of these issues. The presence of cavities (dental caries) and gum inflammation (gingivitis) can be indications that the patient is experiencing dry mouth.
  • Patient Symptoms: The dentist may also inquire about specific symptoms the patient might be experiencing, such as a persistent dry feeling in the mouth, frequent thirst, difficulty eating or swallowing, bad breath, or a sore throat. These symptoms, combined with the visual and practical examinations, help the dentist make a comprehensive assessment of the patient's oral health and the presence of dry mouth.

Tips to Prevent Dry Mouth

  • Good Oral Hygiene: Maintaining good oral hygiene is crucial. Brush your teeth at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, and use dental floss or interdental brushes to clean between your teeth.
  • Regular Dental Visits: Visit your dentist regularly for cleanings and exams. They can catch any oral health issues early and provide guidance on managing dry mouth.
  • Hydration: Drink plenty of water throughout the day to stay hydrated. Sipping water regularly helps maintain saliva production and keeps your mouth moist.
  • Smoking: Smoking can exacerbate dry mouth and also contribute to a host of other oral health problems. If you smoke, consider quitting to improve your overall oral health.
  • Carbonated Drinks: Carbonated beverages can be acidic and may further dry out your mouth. Opt for water or sugar-free alternatives instead.
  • Alcoholic Beverages: Alcohol can dehydrate the body, leading to dry mouth. Limit your intake of alcoholic beverages, especially if you're prone to dry mouth.
  • Acidic, Spicy, Dry, and Sugary Foods: These types of foods can irritate the mouth and contribute to dryness. Limit your consumption of foods like citrus fruits, spicy dishes, dry crackers, and sugary treats.
  • Sugarless Gum: Chewing sugarless gum can help stimulate saliva production, which aids in keeping your mouth moist. Look for gums sweetened with xylitol, a sugar substitute that also helps prevent cavities.
  • Ice Cubes or Sugarless Ice Pops: Sucking on ice cubes or sugarless ice pops can provide relief from dry mouth by temporarily increasing moisture.
  • Dry Mouth Mouthwash: Consider using a mouthwash specifically formulated for dry mouth. These mouthwashes are designed to provide moisture and comfort to a dry oral cavity.
  • Avoid Decongestants and Antihistamines: If possible, avoid medications like decongestants and antihistamines that can contribute to dry mouth. If you must take them, talk to your doctor about alternatives or strategies to manage dry mouth symptoms.
  • Sip Water with Medications: Before swallowing capsules or tablets, take a few sips of water to help moisten your mouth. This can reduce the drying effect of medications.
  • Morning Medication Timing: If you're taking medications that cause dry mouth, try to take them in the morning rather than at night. This can help minimize the impact of dry mouth during sleep, which is when it can lead to dental issues like cavities.
  • Cool-Mist Humidifier: If you tend to breathe through your mouth at night, consider using a cool-mist humidifier in your bedroom. This helps keep the air moist and can alleviate dry mouth symptoms.
  • Lip Balm: Keep a moisturizing lip balm handy to prevent dry or cracked lips, which can be a common side effect of dry mouth.

If Your Dry Mouth is Due to Sleep Apnea, Star Dental Institute Has Got You Covered!

Our sleep apnea solutions are tailored to provide you with restful sleep and relief from dry mouth discomfort.

  • Custom Oral Appliances: Experience the comfort and effectiveness of custom oral appliances. These devices are meticulously crafted to fit your unique mouth structure, gently repositioning your jaw to improve airflow during sleep. Say goodbye to bulky masks and hello to a good night's rest with our personalized oral appliances.
  • CPAP Alternatives: For those seeking alternatives to traditional CPAP machines, we have solutions! We understand that CPAP machines can be cumbersome and uncomfortable for some patients. That's why we offer innovative alternatives that provide uninterrupted rest without the need for a mask. Explore our CPAP alternatives for a more comfortable sleep experience.

Dealing with dry mouth can be uncomfortable and even stressful, but you don't have to navigate it by yourself. Star Dental Institute is always at your disposal to provide assistance and support. Whether you have questions, concerns, or simply need guidance, our doors are open to help you achieve optimal oral health.

Contact Us

Star Dental Institute 3695 Star Ranch Road Colorado Springs, CO 80906 Call Now: (719) 597-7979

Get Directions

Schedule Your Visit!

*First Name

*Last Name

Your Email

*Phone Number

*Preferred Appointment Date & Time


(Requested time is not final until you receive confirmation from our office) I allow this website to store my submission so they can respond to my inquiry