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What Causes Dry Mouth After Surgery?

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Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

Most cases of dry mouth after surgery are temporary. After the procedure, your mouth should quickly return to normal. If the effect lasts longer, you're at a risk of tooth decay and other harmful effects. You can reduce the risk to your dental health by keeping your mouth moist and telling your dentist about your condition right away.

Dental Work and Dry Mouth

Saliva can interfere when your dentist treats your teeth. Because of that, dry mouth is normal after dental surgery and other dental work. For example, before filling a cavity or performing an extraction, your dentist will prepare the area for a local anesthetic injection by drying it with air from a tube, or she might use cotton rolls to absorb the saliva. While she works, her assistant might also hold a soft plastic tube in your mouth that sucks away excess moisture. When the treatment is over, your mouth might feel dry for a short time, but this is nothing to worry about. If it's persistent, it may be time to consult with your dentist.

Side Effect of General Anesthesia

General anesthesia can result in some mild side effects, including dry mouth. According to Medline Plus, after waking up from a surgical operation, you may feel shivery and nauseous, as well as notice your mouth is dry and your throat feels sore. Again, these after effects should last only a few hours, but if they persit, you should check in with your doctor.

Long-Term Dry Mouth

Occasionally, dry mouth continues long after surgery. Cancer patients especially may develop dry mouth as a result of their radiation therapy. Very rarely, surgery damages nerves, and this can also lead to dry mouth, as the Mayo Clinic explains. If you have surgery that can affect your saliva production, your healthcare team should be able advise you on how to treat long-term dry mouth, including medication and sprays that help supplement saliva.

Living With Dry Mouth

Dry mouth after surgery increases your risk of dental problems, but you can develop simple daily habits to keep your mouth feeling moist and help reduce the risk of tooth decay. After your procedure, brush twice a day with a toothpaste like Colgate® Enamel Health™ Multi-Protection Toothpaste to protect your teeth. You should also avoid smoking and drinking alcohol and caffeinated beverages, which will dry out your mouth.

Increase your saliva flow by sucking on hard sugarless candy and chewing sugarless gum, and take regular sips of water. Breathing through your nose and not your mouth also helps avoid drying up the saliva you produce. Tell your dentist about your dry mouth so she can recommend an artificial saliva spray and other treatments that can help.

Recovering from surgery takes time, but in most cases, the dry mouth after effect disappears within a day. If your dry mouth lasts longer, tell your dentist so you can decide together the best way to reduce your risks of tooth decay.


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This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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