Your mouth feels parched. You have difficulty swallowing and trouble forming words. Many 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, it can lead to cavities, gum problems and oral infections. Dry mouth is often caused by medication and dehydration. In some people, it may be the symptom of an underlying medical condition.
Xerostomia is a side effect of more than 400 medications, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR). Medications often limit the amount of saliva produced by the salivary glands, thereby causing the condition. Such medications may include treatments for high blood pressure, depression and cancer. If you think your dry mouth is connected to a medication you're taking, consult your doctor to discuss your options.
Some health conditions can lead to dry mouth. 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 salivary glands and other moisture-producing glands in the body. To determine whether your dry mouth is caused by Sjögren's syndrome, a doctor may measure the rate of salivary flow or perform a biopsy of the small salivary glands on your lower lip to identify antibodies commonly associated with the disorder.
Furthermore, both the condition and treatment of Parkinson's Disease can lead to dry mouth in patients. People with Parkinson's Disease may also find that they are producing excessive saliva or drooling in combination with their dry mouth condition, according to a 2011 study published in the Journal of Parkinson's Disease. Other conditions that may lead to dry mouth include Alzheimer's Disease, diabetes and depression.
Dehydration is another common cause of dry mouth; it occurs when you don't drink enough fluid or lose more fluid than you take in. If you're suffering from a stomach bug, for example, you could lose a lot of fluid due to vomiting, and you may be unable to replace the fluid due to severe nausea. A high fever can also leave you dehydrated. In addition, you may suffer from dehydration and dry mouth if you exercise on a hot day and sweat profusely.
Treatment for dry mouth depends on the cause of the condition. If your mouth is dry due to dehydration, you should drink water and other fluids to rehydrate the body. If your xerostomia is caused by medication, your doctor may adjust the dose you're taking. Your doctor may also prescribe medication that stimulates saliva production.
Proper dental care is necessary to prevent tooth cavities and gum problems connected to dry mouth. Brush your teeth regularly and use a toothpaste that contains fluoride. It is also important to floss daily. If you use mouthwash, check 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 relieve xerostomia.