What Causes Dry Mouth and How to Deal With It?

Human Teeth
Teeth and the oral cavity (pexels.com

Every wake up and find your mouth totally dry? Well, if so, it is something that should be corrected as it can lead to issues and not just in your mouth. Let’s explore why.

Saliva, the lubricant produced in the mouth, is like a health tonic for our teeth and gums. It is estimated that our mouth produces around 48 – 60 ounces of saliva every day. Here is why this lubricating liquid is absolutely essential. 

  • It prevents infection in the oral cavity by controlling the growth of microorganisms in the mouth. 
  • Saliva facilitates the transportation of food from the oral cavity to the digestive tract. 
  • It possesses antibacterial properties that protect teeth from cavities. 
  • It is also rich in calcium and phosphorus which ensures healthy teeth. 
  • Saliva also prevents infection by controlling bacteria and fungi in the mouth. 
  • Acts as a lubricant that prevents food particles from sticking to teeth and gums. 
  • Neutralizes the acid from the stomach and helps keep gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) in control. GERD is one of the leading causes of heartburn.  

In all, we need saliva to keep our oral cavity clean and healthy. But there are instances when the saliva production in the mouth decreases resulting in dry mouth. The implications may range from simple discomfort to something which can have a significant impact on your oral and digestive health. Also, it can greatly affect your appetite and a general liking for food. Medically, this condition is known as xerostomia

There are numerous reasons which can lead to dry mouth and fortunately, many treatments can help against this condition. Below you will find out about the potential causes of this condition and several tips for managing it. 

What Causes Dry Mouth?

Picture of dry toung
Xerostomia (CC wikimedia)

The condition occurs when the salivary glands present in the mouth do not produce sufficient saliva to keep the mouth clean. Some of the reasons which can affect the functioning of salivary glands include: 


Dry mouth is a side effect of several medications and over-the-counter drugs. Medicines used to treat depression, anxiety, and high blood pressure are one of the potential sources. Also, medicines used to treat congestions, muscle spasm and general pain can lead to reduced production of saliva. 


As people age, it is common for them to experience this dryness. The condition is more common in women compared to men. Inadequate nutrition, poor oral health, use of medications and changes in the ability of the body to process medications all lead to dry mouth.    

Cancer Treatment 

Drugs used to treat cancer can have a significant impact on the production of saliva. Chemotherapy and radiation used to treat cancer can temporarily or permanently damage the production of saliva in the mouth. The implications of cancer treatment on saliva production depend upon the affected area and dose of medicine. 

Health Conditions 

Dry mouth can be a result of various health conditions such as diabetes, stroke and Alzheimer’s disease. Infections such as thrush in the mouth can also decrease the production of saliva. Autoimmune disorders such as Sjorgen’s syndrome are also considered to be one of the causes of dry mouth. Problems associated with the nasal cavity such as breathing with the mouth open, sinusitis and snoring can contribute towards this condition as well. An injury or damage to the nerves in the head and neck region can also result in a temporary or permanent reduction in saliva production. 

Use of Alcohol, Tobacco and Recreational Drugs 

In the long run, use of alcohol and tobacco can reduce the production of saliva in the oral cavity. Recreational drugs such as methamphetamine or marijuana can lead to severe dryness. It also damages the teeth and gums. 

Effective Tips for Treating Dry Mouth 

On a positive note, this condition can be treated. However, the treatment depends upon the cause of the condition and its severity. Below, you will find 10 tips that are effective against dealing with dry mouth regardless of the cause. 

Chewing Gum 

Chewing stimulates the production of saliva; however, it is only effective if the salivary glands are still working even to some extent. In case the salivary glands are permanently damaged, chewing gum won’t help. Here it is important to use sugar-free gum only. Sugar-free gum protects the oral cavity against cavities. This is even more important in the case of dry mouth because it is more prone to developing cavities. 

Add Fiber 

Fibrous foods including apples, carrots and celery help promote your oral health. They help fight off the harmful bacteria which helps enhance saliva production. 

Keep a Check on Alcohol and Caffeine 

As mentioned earlier, excessive use of caffeine and alcohol can lead to a shortage of saliva so it is important to keep a check on the intake of both. 

Increase Water Intake 

Though water is not a substitute for saliva, increasing water intake helps ease the symptoms. Here you should remember that most bottled water does not contain fluoride. This means that for a sufficient amount of fluoride, you will still have to rely on fluoride toothpaste or mouthwash. 

Rely on Natural Moisturiser 

Most cases of severe dryness can benefit from the use of natural products such as carboxymethyl cellulose gels and ointments. Others have found a mixture of water and glycerin very effective. 

Use a Humidifier 

Use of a room humidifier will keep your nasal and respiratory passages moist. As a result, even if you breathe with your mouth open, your internal membranes will remain moist and you are less likely to experience dry mouth. 

Avoid Medicines Which Lead to Dry Mouth 

It is important to discuss the side effects of all the drugs with your primary healthcare provider. In case you have prescribed a medicine that leads to dry mouth, you can always ask your healthcare provider to prescribe an alternate one.  

Use of Floss and Mouthwash 

Flossing and use of mouthwash are critical for maintaining oral health. But in case of dry mouth, you should beware of the type of mouthwash you need to use. Alcohol-based mouthwashes such as Listerine can actually kill the healthy bacteria in the mouth and result in more dryness. So non-alcoholic mouthwashes are a better choice if you already have a dry mouth. 

Go for Prescribed Medicines to Stimulate Saliva Production 

In case of more severe cases, you can always go for prescribed treatment to increase saliva production. However, it is essential that you seek advice from your healthcare provider before you start any treatment to stimulate the production of saliva in the mouth. 

Take Special Care of Your Oral Health 

In some cases, there is no effective way to treat dry mouth. In that case, protecting your oral cavity becomes a priority. Regularly see your dentist to identify and treat any cavities or other issues with your teeth and gum. Since the natural lubricant is not present, you might also need regular cleaning.