Every day, the human body produces three pints of saliva, which is essential for carrying out many vital functions such as lubricating and digesting food, helping with speech, and keeping your teeth and gums healthy. But sometimes, this vital function can go off-kilter and cause you to produce less saliva than normal.
Keep reading this guide from Flossy to find out what causes dry mouth, five reasons why you may experience it, and what you can do to fix it.
If you have persistent dry mouth, it’s best to consult your doctor on its possible causes. That said, here are five of the most common reasons why you may experience dry mouth:
Dehydration happens when your body doesn’t have enough water and electrolytes to function efficiently. Losing as much as 1.5% of your total water can cause dehydration. One of the surest ways to tell if you’re dehydrated is to check the color of your urine—a dark yellow color indicates dehydration.
Dehydration affects virtually all of your body’s main functions—including saliva production. For this reason, it’s important to examine how much water you get. Remember that electrolytes are also important and should be supplemented with if you excrete a lot of sweat—which is usually the case for those living in extremely hot climates or engaging in frequent strenuous workouts.
Sleeping with an open mouth is one of the most common causes of dry mouth. This can be caused by blocked nasal passages or another health condition—such as obstructive sleep apnea, which is involuntary and is caused by the obstruction of your airways.
If you snore, you are also more likely to experience a dry mouth. You may snore because air can’t flow easily through the nose or mouth, which causes the confined tissue in your mouth and nasal passages to vibrate.
The causes of your snoring should be addressed with your doctor, as snoring can severely interfere with how much oxygen you get during rest and lead to a variety of health conditions down the line.
Sometimes, mouth-breathing could be something you simply do out of habit. It could also be because it’s hard for you to breathe out of your nose, which can—surprisingly—be caused by eating too close to bedtime. Fortunately, it’s not a tough habit to break.
Tobacco contains numerous toxins. Unfortunately, your saliva is usually the first substance that comes into contact when you smoke, which has various negative side effects. While researchers are not sure about the long-term effects of smoking on saliva production, the short-term effects are clear: Smokers produce significantly less saliva than those who do not smoke. As a result, they’re more likely to experience various dental problems.
There are thousands of medications that can cause dry mouth. This includes antidepressants, antihistamines, and antihypertensives—amongst many others. Although the symptoms are temporary and should discontinue once you stop taking the drug, it’s possible for both the quantity and quality of your salivary flow to be affected.
In addition, certain diuretics—such as caffeine—can also lead you to produce less saliva. Although these aren’t technically medications, they are chemical substances that you may come in contact with on a daily basis. For this reason, it’s important to monitor what you eat and drink on a regular basis, as it can be causing your dry mouth.
Certain medical conditions increase your risk of developing dry mouth. This includes diabetes, digestive disorders, and certain autoimmune conditions. Because there are numerous conditions that can lead to dry mouth, it’s important to discuss any such possibilities with your doctor—pinning them down on your own may prove more difficult.
In addition, certain psychological conditions can affect your central nervous system, which can cause dry mouth. Xerostomia is incredibly common in those who suffer from anxiety. In addition, various other disorders such as depression have been linked to dry mouth.
The clinical term for dry mouth is xerostomia. It occurs when the salivary glands in your mouth don’t make enough saliva to carry out many of its necessary functions effectively.
Xerostomia can lead to many undesired effects. It can change your speech (have you ever had to speak with a dry mouth?). It can increase your risk of getting tooth decay. It can also significantly affect your quality of life by making it difficult to eat certain foods.
About 30% percent of U.S. adults experience xerostomia, a number that goes up amongst elders. There are various causes of xerostomia, which range from genetics to mouth-breathing to medication. Keep reading to find out what causes dry mouth and why this condition can be so damaging.
While it may not seem like it, salivary is very chemically complex. It’s composed of 99% water, while the remaining 1% is made of various proteins, enzymes, and electrolytes that have dozens of functions in the body. A healthy adult needs to make about three pints of saliva per day to carry out its vital role.
One such role has to do with the digestion of food. You might know that digestion begins in the mouth thanks to an enzyme called amylase—this breaks down carbohydrates into more manageable molecules and is vital for proper nutrient absorption.
In addition, saliva contains vital minerals—such as calcium—which help to restore your tooth enamel. Because your enamel naturally wears away with the years, it’s important to produce proper amounts of saliva to restore this protective layer of your teeth.
Saliva also contains various protective proteins that protect your mouth from pathogens. Indeed, proper saliva production has been linked to increased oral health, while the dry mouth is related to various degrees of tooth decay and gum disease.
In addition to the above, there are many other reasons why a decrease in the saliva is damaging. For this reason, it’s incredibly important to identify the causes of your dry mouth and to quickly address them—whether at home or with a dental professional.
Once you have identified the causes of your dry mouth, there is plenty you can do to get some much-needed relief. Here are some of our favorite tips for reducing dry mouth:
Water requirements vary from person to person. Even if you’re following the recommended eight glasses per day, you may still experience dehydration. Up your water intake and consider supplementing with electrolytes to see if your dry mouth symptoms improve.
Many of your lifestyle habits can contribute to dry mouth. In the first place, smoking is a well-known cause of dry mouth and has many other negative effects on your dental health. Although it’s easier said than done, quitting smoking can significantly improve your dry mouth symptoms.
If you experience high levels of stress and anxiety, then experimenting with stress reduction can help to alleviate your symptoms. Consider taking up a meditation practice, talking to a therapist, and getting rid of the main stressors in your life.
Lastly, your diet plays an important role in your dry mouth symptoms. A diet that’s too high in salt or sugar can draw water out of your cells, leading to less overall production of saliva in your body. As with most things in life, you should consume a good balance of how much salt and sugar.
Breathing through your mouth significantly decreases how much oxygen you get during sleep. Aside from getting rid of your dry mouth, this is one of the reasons why you should address it. While a sleep specialist may best be able to help you, other remedies that work include not eating too close to bedtime, keeping your sinuses clear, and even placing a piece of tape over your mouth before sleep.
You can increase how much saliva you produce by chewing on sugar-free gum. In addition, it might help to use a non-alcoholic mouthwash throughout the day. However, these provide only a temporary solution and do not get to the root causes of your dry mouth.
There are saliva substitutes available that can be used if other solutions don’t work. Usually, these will take the form of a gel or mouthwash. Consult with your dentist to discover which option is best for you.
If none of the above strategies relieve your dry mouth, then it may be time to consider medication. There are various FDA-approved drugs that can alleviate your dry mouth. These are a class of drugs called oral cholinergic—which work by dilating blood vessels, slowing the heart rate, and increasing bodily secretions—including saliva.
Dry mouth can be a seriously debilitating condition. It can make it difficult to perform many basic functions, such as digesting food and speaking. In addition, it can lead to various dental conditions.
There can be many reasons why you experience dry mouth. Whether it’s mild dehydration, poor lifestyle factors, or serious medical conditions, it’s important to identify these reasons and to address them quickly.
At Flossy, we have a network of dental professionals who can quickly get to the root causes of your dry mouth and provide rapid relief.
Functions of Saliva | Intech Open
Xerostomia (Dry Mouth) | The American Dental Association
How to Stop Mouth Breathing for Better Sleep | CNN
Effect of Long-term Smoking on Whole-mouth Salivary Flow Rate and Oral Health | NCBI
Evaluation of Xerostomia in Different Psychological Disorders: An Observational Study | NCBI
Medications That May Cause Dry Mouth | WSDHA