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Common Dry Mouth Causes in Adults

Amy Freeman

Your mouth feels parched. You have difficulty swallowing and trouble forming words. Plenty of people experience dryness in the mouth from time to time. However, persistent dry mouth, also called xerostomia, can be a cause for concern. If the condition isn't treated, you can develop cavities, gum disease and oral infections. Dry mouth causes often include medications and dehydration. Some people might experience dry mouth as a result of a disease or other medical condition.

Medications

Xerostomia is a side effect of more than 400 medications, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR). Medications often cause the condition by limiting the amount of saliva produced by the salivary glands. Some medications that can lead to dry mouth include treatments for high blood pressure, depression and cancer. If you think your dry mouth is connected to a medication you're taking, talk to your doctor about your options.

Conditions and Diseases

Some diseases are also dry mouth causes. The Sjögren's Syndrome Foundation states that xerostomia is often one of the major symptoms of Sjögren's syndrome, an autoimmune disorder. If you suffer from the disorder, your immune system attacks the glands that produce saliva and other sources of moisture in the body. To determine whether your dry mouth is caused by Sjögren's, a doctor might measure the rate of salivary flow or perform a biopsy of the small salivary glands on your lower lip to look for antibodies commonly associated with the disorder.

Both the condition and treatment of Parkinson's disease can lead to dry mouth in patients. Furthermore, people with Parkinson's disease may experience excessive saliva and drooling while they are experiencing dry mouth, according to a 2011 study published in the Journal of Parkinson's Disease. Other conditions that can lead to dry mouth include Alzheimer's disease, diabetes and depression.

Dehydration

Dehydration is another common cause of dry mouth and can be a result of not getting enough fluid or of losing too much. If you're suffering from a stomach bug, for example, you might lose a lot of fluid due to vomiting, and you might not replace the fluid because you feel too nauseated to do so. A high fever can also leave you dehydrated. Additionally, you might suffer from dehydration and dry mouth if you exercise on a hot day and sweat profusely.

Treating Dry Mouth

Treatment for dry mouth depends on the cause. If your mouth is dry due to dehydration, you can drink water and other fluids to rehydrate the body. Your doctor might adjust the dose of the medication you're taking if it's causing xerostomia. Your doctor may also prescribe a medicine that encourages saliva production.

Proper dental care is necessary to prevent tooth decay and gum disease connected to dry mouth. Brush your teeth regularly and use a toothpaste that contains fluoride, such as Colgate® Total® Advanced Deep Clean. Floss daily, too. If you use mouthwash, ensure that it doesn't contain alcohol, which can make dryness worse.

Determining the cause of your dry mouth will bring you one step closer to treating and solving it. To help ease the feeling of dryness in your mouth, remember to drink plenty of water throughout the day. Avoiding foods and substances that dry out the mouth — such as caffeine, tobacco and alcohol — can also help reduce the unpleasantness of xerostomia.

Learn more about dry mouth in the Colgate Oral Care resources.

Source: Flickr/Greg Riegler

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