Hi, I’m Dr Judith, and I’m one of the Principal Dentists here at Elevate Dental in Melbourne.
A few weeks ago, I met Jasmine from St Kilda who came to our practice for a consultation. She had noticed that her mouth had been feeling really, really dry and she always had to have a bottle of water next to her. She found that she had to be constantly sipping water throughout the day because her mouth felt dry and she felt really uncomfortable. So she asked me, “Why does my mouth feel so dry? Is this normal?”
I’ve heard the same story quite a lot from other dry mouth patients, so I thought that I’d share with you the different causes of dry mouth.
It’s normal to occasionally have a dry mouth if you’re dehydrated or you’re feeling nervous, but having a persistently dry mouth and limited saliva flow can be a sign of an underlying problem.
So what can cause a dry mouth? A dry mouth can occur when the saliva glands in your mouth don’t produce enough saliva. Dry mouth is often the result of dehydration, which means you don’t have enough fluid in your body to produce the saliva that you need, and it’s also common to have a dry mouth when you’re feeling anxious or nervous.
A dry mouth can sometimes also be caused by an underlying problem or even a medical condition such as medication. There are quite a number of medications that can cause a dry mouth, including antidepressants, some antihistamines and diuretics. It’s recommended to always make sure that you check the leaflet that comes with your medicine to see if dry mouth is listed as a side effect. It’s not uncommon to notice a dry mouth especially if you’ve changed medications recently.
When we notice an increased dry mouth symptoms due to a change in medication, we often work with GPs and doctors to find alternatives that will help with their medical condition and at the same time, also make sure that their salivary glands are not impacted.
There also also medical conditions that can contribute to a dry mouth include diabetes, radiotherapy and Sjögren’s syndrome.
Radiotherapy in the head and neck region, can cause the salivary glands to become inflamed. And as a result, the salivary glands don’t produce enough saliva or the saliva that they produce is not effective in protecting the teeth and lubricating the soft tissues there, resulting in a dry mouth. Sjogren’s syndrome is a condition where the immune system attacks and damages the salivary glands.
Whenever experiencing dry mouth, it’s important to understand its effect on your dental health.
Enough saliva plays a really important role in keeping your mouth healthy. Saliva production helps keep everything in your mouth lubricated. When you have a dry mouth you may experience a number of issues such as a burning sensation or soreness in your mouth, dry cracked lips, bad breath, a decreased or changed sense of taste, recurrent mouth infections such as oral thrush.
Saliva also contains a lot of antibodies and and minerals to help protect your teeth from bacteria and decay and keeps your mouth moist. When you have decreased saliva and a dry mouth, people tend to have more dental issues like holes in the teeth, tooth decay, and gum disease.
So what are the options for you if you find that you’re having a dry mouth? Well, number one is to find out the cause of dry mouth, why you are experiencing dry mouth and try and see if there are options to change or address that.
In the meantime at home, what you can do is to increase your fluid intake. So take regular slips of cold water or an unsweetened drink. You can suck on sugar-free sweets or choose sugar-free gum because this can stimulate saliva flow produced by the salivary glads. Definitely avoid anything like alcohol, and this includes alcohol-based mouthwashes. Avoid caffeine and also smoking, because this can all make a dry mouth worse. If these measures don’t help against dry mouth usually what we suggest is to start looking at saliva substitutes to keep your mouth moist, and this can come in the form of sprays, gels, or even lozenges that you can suck, toothpaste as well as mouthwashes.
In very severe cases, especially if dry mouth is caused by radiotherapy or Sjogren’s syndrome damaging your salivary glands, there are some medications that can be prescribed to help stimulate the salivary glands to produce more saliva.
If you’ve noticed persistent dry mouth signs and symptoms, we’d love to give you an assessment and help you find the right treatment. You can pay us a visit at our clinics in Hawthorn and Richmond both with onsite free parking. Simply call us on 1300 2 SMILE, complete the form on our website, or directly message us on social media, and we’ll be in touch to help you organise your dry mouth consultation. See you in the next video.
Note: All content and media on the Elevate Dental website and social media channels are created and published online for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice and should not be relied on as health or personal advice.