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Dry Mouth: Causes, Symptoms, Treatments & Home Remedies

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What is dry mouth? Dry mouth (xerostomia) is a common condition in which your oral cavity lacks moisture. It sounds like no big deal, but persistent dry mouth can cause serious health problems throughout the body. Also called xerostomia, untreated dry mouth can lead to trouble swallowing, halitosis, tooth decay, oral thrush, and gut problems.

Dry mouth can be caused by a variety of conditions and medications. It’s dangerous for oral health, so it’s crucial to address dry mouth, not ignore it.

The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends fluoride to address tooth decay. However, biological dentists generally believe it is better to address the root cause of tooth decay, which is often an unhealthy diet and dry mouth.

If you’re worried about dry mouth or other oral health topics, schedule an appointment with Rejuvenation Dentistry in NYC. We’re a biological dentistry practice with years of experience helping people like you with their unique health situations.

What causes dry mouth?

Many lifestyle choices and medical conditions can cause or increase your risk of dry mouth:

  • Mouth breathing (common in sleep apnea)
  • Dehydration
  • Stress
  • Tobacco use
  • Alcohol use
  • Diabetes
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Sjögren’s syndrome
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Nerve damage
  • Cancer treatment, chemotherapy radiation therapy
  • More than 1,800 pharmaceutical drugs

Since mouth breathing is a significant cause of dry mouth, it’s important to know what can lead you to breathe through your mouth:

  • Allergies
  • Sleep apnea
  • Deviated septum
  • The shape of your nose
  • Bad breathing habits

Dry Mouth Symptoms

Xerostomia (dry mouth) symptoms include:

  • Dry, sticky feeling in your mouth
  • Thick saliva
  • Dry throat
  • Dry lips
  • Dry eyes
  • Increased thirst
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Burning sensation in the mouth
  • Change in your sense of taste
  • Increased risk of tooth decay (cavities)
  • Bad breath (halitosis)

Medical Treatments for Xerostomia

There are a few effective medical treatment options for xerostomia (dry mouth):

  • Visit your dentist twice a year. These biannual checkups with your dentist’s office can prevent oral health problems like xerostomia from developing or worsening. Many dental professionals can identify the symptoms of dry mouth before the patient.
  • Discuss changing your prescription. Because almost 2,000 medications are known to potentially cause dry mouth, it’s worth discussing with your healthcare provider whether you need to change your prescriptions. Antihistamines, antidepressants, decongestants, and certain high blood pressure drugs (diuretics) are common medications that lead to xerostomia. Even over-the-counter meds can reduce salivary flow and cause mouth dryness.
  • Discuss pilocarpine (Salagen) with your doctor. Pilocarpine is a medicine designed to increase salivary gland activity by fighting Sjögren’s syndrome.
  • Try artificial saliva. Saliva substitutes include Mouth Kote, Biotene OralBalance Moisturizing Gel, or Oasis Moisturizing Mouth Spray, all of which should help you produce enough saliva to reverse and prevent dry mouth. However, artificial saliva is not treating the root cause — it is only a temporary mask of dry mouth symptoms.

Dry Mouth Home Remedies

Check out these science-backed at-home remedies for dry mouth:

    • Drink lots of water. Water is the solution whether you’re dehydrated or need to promote saliva flow. Drinking plenty of water should help remedy dry mouth and promote overall wellness. I recommend sipping water instead of chugging it.
    • Avoid mouth-drying foods. Salty foods, spicy foods, acidic foods, sugary foods, and caffeine all may contribute to dry mouth. Instead, opt for saliva-promoting foods like vegetables, sugar-free gum, and sugar-free hard candy that moisten the mouth and prevent poor oral hygiene and gum disease.
    • Practice nose breathing. If you have a mouth breathing habit, practice purposefully breathing through your nose. The downsides of mouth breathing include more than just dry mouth. The benefits of nose breathing include decreased risk of heart disease due to increased nitric oxide production during nasal breathing.
    • Use mouth tape. Mouth taping can feel weird at first, but it is a great way to practice nasal breathing, especially when sleeping or working out. Research shows that mouth breathing during sleep directly impacts your oral health and mood when you wake up.
  • Throw out your alcohol-based mouthwashes. Forget the problems with fluoride — if your mouthwash is alcohol-based (most conventional mouthwashes are), that ADA-approved mouth rinse may be drying out your mouth, leading to more cavities and disrupting your oral microbiome. You do not need to use any mouthwash for your oral health. If you want to use a mouthwash, opt for a microbiome-friendly natural mouthwash. Or try oil pulling instead!
    • Chew sugar-free gum. Gum produces saliva, which fights tooth decay and dry mouth. Xylitol gum is probably the best sugarless gum for your oral health. (Don’t let your dog accidentally eat the xylitol gum, as it’s toxic to furry friends.)
  • Turn on your humidifier. Using a humidifier (especially when you’re asleep) may help with dry mouth, as well as dry eyes and sore throat. You should be able to get a humidifier for $30-$50 from Walmart or online.

Prevention

These proven ways help to prevent dry mouth:

  • Be mindful of mouth breathing. If you find yourself breathing through your mouth for any reason, practice nasal breathing. Not only is breathing through the nose better for your health, mouth breathing often leads to dry mouth.
  • Reduce the stress in your life. Stress is a common underlying cause of dry mouth (as well as dozens of other diseases and conditions). Practice meditation, spending quiet time outside, deep breathing, thankfulness, getting quality sleep, and reducing your time on technology to reduce the stresses of your day-to-day life.
  • Drink enough water. To prevent dry mouth, stay hydrated and drink plenty of water.
  • Don’t brush your teeth right after eating. If you brush immediately following eating or drinking anything acidic, you could be rubbing acids against your enamel, which erodes away at your tooth. (Don’t forget to floss daily without irritating your gums.)
  • Limit alcohol. On top of being a neurotoxin, alcohol can also dry out your oral cavity, leading to tooth decay, bad breath, and an imbalanced oral microbiome.
  • Don’t use alcohol-based mouthwashes. Because alcohol can dry out your mouth, which is terrible for oral health, I recommend throwing away any alcohol-based mouthwashes you own. (That’s most mainstream mouthwashes.)

Long-Term Complications

Untreated dry mouth can lead to serious long-term health complications:

  • More cavities (tooth decay)
  • Oral thrush
  • Infections
  • Mouth sores
  • Digestive issues
  • Tooth loss
  • Gum disease
  • Dry skin or skin rash
  • Joint pain
  • Heart problems
  • Difficulty wearing dentures
  • Self-esteem issues

Addressing Tooth Decay Caused by Dry Mouth

Dry mouth has many undesirable symptoms and long-term health complications, including tooth decay. It needs to be addressed with a biological treatment approach.

Cavities can be remineralized by fluoride, but fluoride poses risks. Also, the way fluoride toothpaste and mouthwash are conventionally administered is ineffective.

I recommend a gum-friendly toothpaste to keep your gums and teeth without the side effects of fluoride.

Foods rich in calcium may also help remineralize your teeth.

Limit sugar in your diet to slow the demineralization that leads to tooth decay. You can also eat fiber-rich fruits and vegetables that promote saliva production, discouraging tooth decay.

Holistic Dental Treatment in New York City

Conventional dentists might prescribe fluoride for tooth decay, even though fluoride is harmful if swallowed and potentially harmful even if you don’t consume it. Holistic and biological dentists look for the root cause of your tooth decay, which might be dry mouth or other risk factors.

For a holistic approach to dry mouth and dental health, schedule an appointment with Rejuvenation Dentistry. We have decades of experience treating people like you with our cutting-edge wellness technology and non-invasive treatments.

Sources

  1. Freige, C., & Ford, C. (2020). Pilocarpine for Sjögren’s Syndrome-Induced Dry Mouth and Dry Eyes: A Review of Clinical Effectiveness, Cost-Effectiveness, and Guidelines. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK562832/
  2. Alhejoury, H. A., Mogharbel, L. F., Al-Qadhi, M. A., Shamlan, S. S., Alturki, A. F., Babatin, W. M., … & Pullishery, F. (2021). Artificial saliva for therapeutic management of xerostomia: A narrative review. Journal of Pharmacy & Bioallied Sciences, 13(Suppl 2), S903. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8686887/
  3. Lee, K. A., Park, J. C., & Park, Y. K. (2020). Nutrient intakes and medication use in elderly individuals with and without dry mouths. Nutrition Research and Practice, 14(2), 143-151. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7075737/
  4. Lundberg, J. O. N., & Weitzberg, E. (1999). Nasal nitric oxide in man. Thorax, 54(10), 947-952. Full text: https://thorax.bmj.com/content/54/10/947
  5. Jung, J. Y., & Kang, C. K. (2021, May). Investigation on the Effect of Oral Breathing on Cognitive Activity Using Functional Brain Imaging. In Healthcare (Vol. 9, No. 6, p. 645). MDPI. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8228257/
  6. Shanbhag, V. K. L. (2017). Oil pulling for maintaining oral hygiene–A review. Journal of traditional and complementary medicine, 7(1), 106-109. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5198813/
  7. Janakiram, C., Kumar, C. D., & Joseph, J. (2017). Xylitol in preventing dental caries: A systematic review and meta-analyses. Journal of natural science, biology, and medicine, 8(1), 16. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5320817/
  8. Gholami, N., Sabzvari, B. H., Razzaghi, A., & Salah, S. (2017). Effect of stress, anxiety and depression on unstimulated salivary flow rate and xerostomia. Journal of dental research, dental clinics, dental prospects, 11(4), 247. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5768958/
  9. Rad, M., Kakoie, S., Brojeni, F. N., & Pourdamghan, N. (2010). Effect of long-term smoking on whole-mouth salivary flow rate and oral health. Journal of dental research, dental clinics, dental prospects, 4(4), 110. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3429961/

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