What can cause dry mouth?

November 12, 2012

What can cause dry mouth?

Saliva is essential and has many useful functions including cleansing the mouth and helping with the digestion of food. Dry mouth can be very uncomfortable but fortunately the things that cause dry mouth can be easily treated.

Medications that cause dry mouth

There are a variety of known factors that cause dry mouth, which is known medically as xerostomia. One such cause is as a side effect of certain medications. Both prescription and non-prescription drugs have been known to cause it and the ones thought to do so most often are those used to treat conditions including:

  • Depression

  • Anxiety

  • Allergies

  • Obesity

  • Acne

  • Epilepsy

  • Hypertension

  • Diarrhoea

  • Nausea

  • Psychotic disorders

  • Asthma

  • Urinary incontinence

  • Parkinson’s disease

  • Muscle relaxants and sedatives

Although the medications used to treat these conditions can potentially cause dry mouth, everyone will experience different reactions and side effects to different drugs. Therefore nobody knows before hand what side effects will occur if any do at all.

Diseases and infections that cause dry mouth

There are a number of health conditions, of which dry mouth is thought to be a symptom of side effect. These conditions include but are not limited to:

  • Alzheimer’s disease


  • Sjogren’s syndrome

  • Diabetes

  • Anemia

  • Cystic fibrosis

  • Rheumatoid arthritis

  • Hypertension

  • Parkinson’s disease

  • Stroke

  • Mumps

Other causes of dry mouth

Other factors that can cause dry mouth include:

  • Nerve damage around the head or neck

  • Dehydration

  • A side effect of medical treatment such as chemotherapy treatments or other treatments that have lead to damage to the salivary glands causing a decrease in the production of saliva

  • Having the salivary glands surgically removed

  • Smoking

  • Excessive breathing with the mouth open

Symptoms of dry mouth

Common symptoms include:

  • A dry or sticky feeling in the mouth

  • Increased thirst

  • A dry throat

  • A dry, red tongue

  • Sores in the mouth/ split skin around the mouth/ cracked lips

  • A tingling sensation in the mouth often on the tongue

  • Difficulty speaking, tasting, chewing or swallowing

  • Hoarseness and sore throat

  • Bad breath

As well as producing these symptoms, bad breath can also lead to or increase the risk of developing more serious conditions including gum disease, tooth decay and thrush.

Treating dry mouth

There are a number of steps that can be taken in order to reduce symptoms and treat the condition. If you suspect that it is occurring as a side effect of medication, report it to your doctor who may be able to alter the medication. There are some things that you can do to stimulate the production and flow of saliva such as chew sugar-free gum, suck sugar free sweets, drink water, brush your teeth with a fluoride toothpaste and use a fluoride mouthwash, breathe through your nose rather your mouth, use a room vaporizer to increase the amount of moisture in the air or use over the counter medications.


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