It may not seem like a big deal that your mouth gets a little dry at night. But before you completely dismiss your symptoms and the discomfort that comes along with this condition, consider what that lack of saliva could be doing to your oral health and quality of life. What may seem like a little annoyance could be doing big damage to your teeth, so it's worth discussing the issue with your doctor. For now, use some coping methods until you can talk to your doctor or dentist about your symptoms and how they might be affecting more than just your ability to swallow.
Here's the thing: what may seem like a little problem can actually have pretty big consequences. Saliva plays a key role in oral health, helping you digest food, avoiding infection by keeping your mouth clean, and even staving off cavities by preventing the growth of germs in your mouth. When your mouth is perpetually dry at night, this means that it isn't producing enough saliva, which can lead to the growth of germs (hello, morning breath!), along with an increased chance of cavities, difficulty swallowing, and even infection.
Whether it's a new development or something you've been struggling with for a long time, there are a number of reasons why your body may not be making enough saliva. First, unless you're a midnight snacker, you naturally decrease the amount of food that you eat at night, which means your body slows your saliva production because there's nothing to digest. But if you've recently started taking a new type of medication, you might notice your mouth getting dry even when you have been eating. The South African Dental Association estimates that there are more than 500 types of medication that can contribute to oral dryness. Other causes of dry mouth include side effects of different medical conditions and radiation and chemotherapy treatments, autoimmune disease, dehydration or lifestyle habits (chronic users of tobacco, for example).
If your dry mouth is mild and occurs infrequently, chewing gum containing xylitol, sucking on a sugarless mint, drinking a glass of water or rinsing with a mouthwash should help get rid of the problem and restore oral comfort. But if your dry mouth at night is chronic or started when you began taking a new medication, talk to your doctor and schedule an appointment with your dentist. Your doctor can help you learn whether dry mouth is a side effect of a medication, and if appropriate, reduce dosage or try something new. Your dentist can check to make sure that your dry mouth hasn't resulted in cavities or other oral health issues that need to be addressed.
Don't make the mistake of dismissing your nightly dry mouth as no big deal. If it's affecting your comfort and quality of life, it's worth discussing the issue with your health care providers. Together, you can come up with a solution that can help stop your dry mouth and prevent all the negative side effects that come with it. Good saliva production should make for sweet dreams — or at least better breath in the morning.