Do you ever wake up in the morning and your mouth feels dry? Does this feeling persist throughout the day? Has the dryness in your mouth just shown up recently — perhaps after a medication or lifestyle change? What you are feeling is commonly referred to as dry mouth, or xerostomia, the medical term for the condition.
There are many factors that contribute to the dryness of one’s mouth, many of which you might be able to change. We will talk about those in a moment as well as some helpful strategies to combat the uncomfy feeling associated with dry mouth.
Why is my mouth dry?
There are several contributing factors that affect the onset of dry mouth. The first thing that I would like to mention is that dry mouth is a very common condition. One in five older adults experience dry mouth at some point. You are not alone.
As straightforward as it might sound, dry mouth is caused by your mouth not being properly moist enough. This is caused simply by the mouth not producing enough saliva (or spit). Your saliva production can be slowed down by many things. One such factor is the consumption of sugar and caffeine. Caffeine causes temporary dryness that can persist the more you supply your body with the substance.
Another factor to look out for is tobacco use. The nicotine in tobacco can actually reduce the amount of saliva flow in the mouth. Medications, like antidepressants, antihistamines, and more, can all cause changes to saliva that exacerbate dry mouth. This is usually listed as a side effect.
Finally, two of the most common risk factors for dry mouth are age and dehydration. As you get older, you are more likely to run into issues with a dry mouth. In addition, dehydration is the most common cause of dry mouth: if you aren’t properly hydrating, your body is going to have a tougher time producing saliva.
Why is this important to spot?
You might just think that dry mouth is just an annoying part of life that you should not worry about. You would be wrong!
Xerostomia, a dry mouth, is actually the first step to developing periodontitis, a type of gum disease that might eventually require periodontal treatment. Here’s how that works. Saliva is a natural “mouth wash” — it is supposed to constantly rinse over your gums, teeth, and tongue to remove any small food bits or bacteria. When you have a less than ideal amount of saliva, the bacteria that exist naturally in your mouth starts to colonize. When this occurs, a large amount of bacteria attack your gums causing inflammation and tenderness. Periodontitis is at its worst when the bacteria has caused your gums to recede so much that they can no longer hold onto your teeth.
I know that sounds a little scary, but there are some tips that you can try to get your saliva and mouth back into working condition.
What you can do now
Drink water. Remember when it was mentioned that dehydration is a top risk factor for dry mouth? Well, your hydration level is something that you can easily control and increase. Drinking an adequate amount of water is not only key to overall health, it is paramount to keeping your mouth in working shape.
If you use tobacco products, try to reduce or quit. The nicotine in tobacco causes dry mouth so if there is any way that you can drastically reduce or even quit the use, your mouth will thank you.
Reduce your sugar intake. Since sugar is a drying agent for the mouth, limiting its use is ideal for keeping saliva glands working.
As always, keep up with your oral hygiene routine. This tip does not increase your saliva output but it does help keep bacteria away. Remember to brush twice a day with a soft bristle brush as well as floss at the end of every day.
In conclusion: A dry mouth is a clue to overall health.
As you have noticed, a dry mouth is not just an annoying part of life. You can fix it and you should! Many lifestyle choices–many of which you can change–contribute to lowered saliva production. We hope that you are able to use some of these tips to decrease the instance of dry mouth and improve your overall health. If your dry mouth persists, contact a dentist like Devaney Dentistry, who has the knowledge and compassionate experience to help you out with these symptoms or any periodontal treatment you may need.