We all need saliva to moisten and cleanse our mouths and digest food. Saliva also prevents infection by controlling bacteria and fungi in the mouth. When we don’t produce enough saliva, our mouth gets dry and uncomfortable. Besides causing the aggravating symptoms mentioned above, dry mouth also increases a person’s risk of gingivitis (gum disease), tooth decay, and mouth infections, such as thrush. Dry mouth can also make it difficult to wear dentures. . Fortunately, there are many effective treatments for dry mouth.
There are several causes of dry mouth, also called xerostomia. These include:
- Side effect of certain medications. Dry mouth is a common side effect of many prescription and nonprescription drugs including drugs used to treat: depression, anxiety, pain, allergies, and colds (antihistamines and decongestants), obesity, acne, epilepsy, hypertension (diuretics), diarrhea, nausea, psychotic disorders, urinary incontinence, asthma (certain bronchodilators), and Parkinson’s disease. Dry mouth can also be a side effect of muscle relaxants and sedatives.
- Side effect of certain diseases and infections. Dry mouth can be a side effect of medical conditions, including Sjögren’s syndrome, HIV/AIDS, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, anemia, cystic fibrosis, rheumatoid arthritis, hypertension, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, and mumps.
- Side effect of certain medical treatments. Damage to the salivary glands, the glands that produce saliva, for example, from radiation to the head and neck and chemotherapy treatments for cancer, can reduce the amount of saliva produced.
- Nerve damage. Dry mouth can be a result of nerve damage to the head and neck area from an injury or surgery.
- Dehydration. Conditions that lead to dehydration, such as fever, excessive sweating, vomiting, diarrhea, blood loss, and burns can cause dry mouth.
- Surgery. Surgical removal of the salivary glands.
- Lifestyle. Smoking or chewing tobacco can affect saliva production and aggravate dry mouth.
- Continuously breathing with your mouth open can also contribute to the problem.