A dry mouth can be the result of a decrease in saliva production or its interruption and can occur at any age, being more common in elderly women. This dry mouth condition may also be called xerostomia, asialorrhoea, hyposalivation and can have several causes. Its treatment consists in increasing salivation with simple measures or with the use of medication indicated by the doctor.
If you experience dry mouth upon waking it may be a slight sign of dehydration and therefore it is recommended that you increase water intake, but if the symptom persists a physician should be seen.
Common causes for dry mouth
Saliva plays an important role in protecting your oral cavity against fungal, viral, or bacterial infections, which can cause tooth decay and bad breath. In addition to humidifying the tissues of the mouth, it also helps in digesting and swallowing of foods, facilitates phonetics and is essential in the retention of prostheses. Therefore, if you verify that your mouth is constantly dry it is important to go to a doctor's office to start appropriate treatment.
The most common causes of dry mouth are:
1. Nutritional deficiencies
The lack of vitamin A and B complex may dry the mouth tissues, which can lead to wounds in the mouth and tongue. These vitamins are found in various foods, such as fish, meat and eggs.
2. Autoimmune diseases
Autoimmune diseases are develop when the body begins to produce antibodies against the body itself, leading to inflammation of some glands in the body, such as the salivary gland, which can lead to dryness of the mouth because saliva production becomes decreased.
Some autoimmune diseases that can lead to dry mouth are Systemic Lupus Erythematosus and Sjögren's Syndrome, in which, in addition to the symptom dry mouth, there may be feeling that there is sand in the eyes and a higher risk of infections, such as cavities and conjunctivitis, for example.
3. Use of medication
Some medication can also lead to dry mouth such as antidepressants, antidiuretics, antipsychotics, antihypertensives and cancer medicines.
In addition to medication, radiation therapy, which is a type of treatment that aims to eliminate cancer cells through radiation, when performed on the head or neck, can cause dry mouth and the appearance of gum wounds depending on the dose of the radiation.
4. Thyroid problems
Hashimoto's thyroiditis is a disease characterized by the production of the body's antibodies that attack the thyroid and lead to its inflammation, which causes hyperthyroidism and then may lead to hypothyroidism. The signs and symptoms of thyroid problems may arise slowly and include dry mouth, for example.
5. Hormonal changes
Hormonal changes, especially during menopause and pregnancy, can cause a number of imbalances in the woman's body, including decreasing the production of saliva, causing dry mouth.
Dry mouth in pregnancy can occur due to insufficient water intake, as the need for water in the woman's body increases during this time because the body needs to form the placenta and amniotic fluid. So if you already drink about 2 liters of water a day it is normal that you need to increase that amount to about 3 liters per day.
6. Respiratory problems
Some breathing problems, such as deviated septum or airway obstruction, for example, can cause a person to breathe through their mouth instead of their nose, which can lead, over the years, to changes in face anatomy and a greater chance of having infections, since the nose is not filtering the air that is breathed. In addition, the constant intake and output of air by the mouth can lead to dry mouth and bad breath.
7. Life habits
Life habits such as smoking, eating too many sugary foods or not drinking too a lot of water can cause dry mouth and bad breath, in addition to serious illnesses such as pulmonary emphysema due to cigarettes, and diabetes when there is consumption of foods high in sugar content.
People with diabetes often suffer from dry mouth and it can be caused by polyuria, which appears due to frequent urination. To prevent dry mouth symptom in this case you should increase water intake, but the doctor will be able to evaluate if diabetic medication is needed, depending on the severity of this side effect.
What to do
One of the best strategies for fighting dry mouth is to drink plenty of water throughout the day.
In addition, the treatment for dry mouth can be done in order to increase saliva secretion, such as:
- To suck bullets with smooth surface or chewing gum without sugar;
- Eat more acidic and citrus foods because they stimulate chewing;
- Application of fluoride in the dentist's office;
- Brush your teeth, floss and always use a mouthwash, at least 2 times a day;
- Ginger tea is also a good option.
In addition one can resort to artificial saliva which will help natural secretions and fight dry mouth symptoms and facilitate chewing of food. Your doctor may also prescribe medications such as sorbitol or pilocarpine.
Other important precautions to avoid your lips dry is to no lick your lips, because contrary to what it seems it dries your lips more that it moisturizes them, try using lip balm, cocoa butter or lipstick with moisturizing properties.
Signs and symptoms of dry mouth
The dry mouth symptom can be accompanied by dry and cracked lips, difficulties related to speaking, chewing, tasting and swallowing. In addition, people who have a dry mouth often have a higher propensity for tooth decay, usually suffer from bad breath and may have headaches, as well as an increased risk of oral infections, mainly caused by Candida albicans, because saliva also protects the mouth against micro-organisms.
You should seek a general practitioner if the symptom of dry mouth is persistent and he may appoint an endocrinologist or gastroenterologist depending on its causes.