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Dry Mouth (Xerostomia) – Causes, Treatments, Complications

Excerpt: Saliva production is important, as it helps digest food, and can help carry food particles down the digestive tract which will help stave off infection, it can also help with fighting infections and tooth decay.
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Dry Mouth

Dry mouth (xerostomia), occurs when you are not producing enough saliva. A dry mouth can cause you to have a parched mouth, bad breath, a dry throat, and cracked lips. It will also promote tooth decay and infection as fewer food particles and bacteria will be carried away from your mouth.

Complications Of Dry Mouth

Dry mouth is not considered to be of serious concern on its own, however, it may be a sign of a more serious underlying health issue that may have bad complications.

Some causes of dry mouth might include:

  • Dehydration – occurs when you are using more water than you are using. Dehydration occurs for a number of reasons. Since saliva is mainly water, this will have a huge impact on its production.
  • Medication – Certain medications can cause a variety of side effects, one of these side effects may be dehydration or specifically dry mouth. Check with your doctor or dentist to see if this could be a factor.
  • Radiation Therapy – Radiation can damage the salivary glands which will reduce the amount of saliva that is being produced.
  • Stress & Anxiety – Cortisol is a hormone that directly impacts saliva production. When you are stressed or anxious this hormone increases in concentration and will impact your saliva production.
  • Aging – As you age, you may naturally experience dry mouth due to a number of reasons.
  • Mouth breathing & snoring – Excess airflow can cause the saliva to dry out. Try to consciously breathe through your nose if you can. You can also get appliances and therapy to help with snoring.
  • Smoking and recreational drug use – Smoking produces heat and smoke which will cause a negative impact on your saliva production. Certain hard drugs like methamphetamine are also known to cause dry mouth.

Summary – What is dry mouth and what causes it?

Dry mouth, or xerostomia, occurs when you are not producing enough saliva. Some common causes of dry mouth include:


  • Dehydration
  • Medication
  • Radiation Therapy
  • Stress & Anxiety
  • Aging 
  • Mouth breathing & snoring
  • Smoking and recreational drug use

What health conditions cause dry mouth?

Some health conditions that may cause dry mouth include:


  • Diabetes – In type 1 and 2 diabetes, dry mouth is a known side effect. Increased blood sugar may cause an effect on saliva production which can lead to dry mouth. Medications for diabetes are also known to reduce the production of saliva.
  • Oral thrush – This is a yeast infection that can cause inflammation. This inflammation can impact your salivary glands.
  • Nerve damage – Damage to your nerves for a number of reasons can reduce your saliva.
  • Cystic Fibrosis – This genetic condition can impact your ability to produce saliva since it affects the digestive and respiratory tracts.
  • Autoimmune disorders – Autoimmune conditions, and the medications used to treat them are known to decrease the amount of saliva your produce. 
  • Alzheimer’s disease – Alzheimer’s can impede a persons ability to stay hydrated.

Summary – What health conditions can cause dry mouth?

Some health conditions that may cause dry mouth include:


  • Diabetes
  • Oral thrush
  • Nerve damage
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Alzheimer’s disease
Dry Mouth (Xerostomia) - Causes, Treatments, Complications - 1 - Smiles Dental Group

Dry Mouth Symptoms

Dry mouth symptoms are pretty straightforward, they can include:
  • Difficulty swallowing, chewing or talking
  • Trouble tasting food or drinks
  • Burning sensation in your mouth
  • Cracked lips
  • Mouth sores
  • Dry tongue
  • Dry throat
  • Bad breath

Dry Mouth & Its Affects On Tooth Decay

Saliva defends you from tooth decay as it removes food particles and can help clean your mouth. It’s also anti-microbial, this will help lessen the number of bacteria and germs inside your mouth.
If you experience dry mouth, you should:
  • Drink water often – This should be pure water, juices, coffees, and sugary drinks that will carry unneeded calories and may also dehydrate you.
  • Chew sugarless gum – Sugar in the gum will contribute to the acid produced by the bacteria in your mouth.
  • Adjust the humidity – If you have access to a humidifier you can increase the humidity which will provide more moisture.
  • Take medication – Saliva-promoting medication is an option and can be useful if your doctor recommends it.
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