While it isn’t as bad as your run-of-the-mill oral ailments, getting a dry mouth still isn’t the greatest. First, there’s how it feels. Some might find it akin to having cotton remnants around your mouth, or perhaps sandpaper. Then, there’s the havoc it can cause on your oral health. A dry mouth is usually a sign of ill-working salivary glands. And when you can’t produce enough saliva, tooth decay and gum disease often follow. It can also cause discomfort, difficulty swallowing or speaking, bad breath, and tooth decay .
What causes dry mouth?
Also referred to as xerostomia, dry mouth is common in older individuals and is brought about by various causes including:
- A side effect of certain medications like prescription and non-prescription drugs for depression, anxiety, pain, allergies, colds, asthma, among others
- Chronic anxiety or stress
- A side effect of diseases and infections such as diabetes, HIV/AIDS, stroke, mumps, anemia, hypertension, and Parkinson’s disease
- Nerve damage to the head and neck area from an injury or surgery
- Dehydration or conditions that lead to it like fever, vomiting, diarrhea, blood loss, etcetera
- Surgical removal of the salivary glands
- A side effect of a medical treatment which damaged the salivary glands. The damage can stem from radiation of the head and neck or chemotherapy treatments.
- Smoking or chewing tobacco
- Breathing with your mouth open
Symptoms of dry mouth
Dry mouth can be detected through observation of its common symptoms. These symptoms might include frequent thirst, a dry tongue, sticky and dry feeling in the mouth, sores in the mouth, split skin at the corners of the mouth, cracked lips, and a dry feeling in the throat.
People suffering from dry mouth can also feel a burning or tingling sensation in the mouth, particularly on the tongue. Bad breath and hoarseness, dry nasal passages, and sore throat are also indications that the mouth is dry and saliva production is inadequate.
Without treatment, xerostomia increases the risk of gingivitis, tooth decay, and mouth infections like thrush. It can also lead to difficulty in wearing dentures.
How can dry mouth be treated?
Fortunately, dry mouth can be treated using simple measures and habits.
- Drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated will keep your mouth moist. Also, avoid alcoholic, acidic, and caffeinated beverages as they can contribute to the drying of the mouth.
- Chew on sugarless gum. By doing this, saliva production can be stimulated. You can also eat an apple, cheese, and other foods that help in the production of saliva.
- Reduce the consumption of dry and salty foods which can worsen the condition. Opt for moist foods like soups, gravies, and creams.
- Quit smoking. Smoking is generally bad for the health and causes life-threatening diseases for smokers and non-smokers. Quitting the bad habit or at the least minimizing it will be better for both oral and general health as tobacco use causes dry mouth.
- Observe proper oral hygiene. Nothing beats brushing, flossing, and rinsing with mouthwash in fighting dry mouth. Also, proper oral hygiene decreases the risks posed by the condition.
- Visit your dentist. Since the dry mouth is brought about by various causes, knowing the root cause of the condition is vital in addressing it. Consulting your dentist on the right treatment for dry mouth. Visiting your dentist at least twice a year is also important in keeping oral health in check and potentially preventing conditions like dry mouth from happening from the start.
Home remedies for dry mouth are relatively straightforward, and they often come from the most commonplace of items. And for the most part, they’re probably things you already do regardless. After all, the best way to beat dry mouth is to take care of your teeth and gums. And you get the best of both worlds—tending to your oral health isn’t just a way to get rid of that cottonmouth. You also prevent further damage those salivary gland problems might bring you.
But what are these home remedies for dry mouth? Here are a few tips you can try out right now:
Treat yourself to a bit of chewing gum
When it comes to home remedies for dry mouth, it helps to understand why you get dry mouth in the first place. Usually, your salivary glands are to blame here. A dry mouth usually means you’ve got limited to no saliva flow. And what causes it can vary. Sometimes keeping your mouth exposed does the trick. Other times, it’s because of specific active ingredients. The easiest way to solve it involves bringing back your saliva flow.
But what triggers those salivary glands? Chewing gum, as it turns out. When we eat, after all, we signal our brains that we’re well on our way to digesting food. To help with this, then, our saliva is rich in enzymes that help break the food down so we don’t choke on it. So while we can’t technically swallow chewing gum, it does do the trick in revitalizing a dry mouth. (And if you chew xylitol-sweetened gum, you get an additional benefit. Xylitol starves the harmful bacteria that cause cavities, so you’re less likely to get tooth decay.)
Don’t forget to brush your teeth and gums
Sometimes a lack of saliva flow can be attributed to how good your oral health is. The less you take care of it, the more you expose your mouth to the myriad of diseases that could halt saliva flow. Tending to your your teeth and gums might sound like standard medical advice, it does help prevent dry mouth. Or, at least, lessen its effects.
Forego the alcohol when you buy an oral rinse
Remember how we said some active ingredients can give your salivary glands trouble? Alcohol is usually one of them. You won’t feel the effects right away, but it does tend to dehydrate the body, including your mouth. So if you’re a fan of the good old oral rinse, look for one that doesn’t contain alcohol.
Drink a lot of water
Sometimes a dry mouth is just a sign of dehydration. The solution? Drink water, and lots of it. You’re sure to feel the effects as soon as possible. Or, at least, relieve yourself of that cottony feeling.
Switch to nasal breathing
Breathing through your mouth is another way to quickly dry up those salivary glands. And for those who do, it becomes a habit. Switching to nasal breathing not only takes care of your oral health but is generally a healthier way to breathe.