What causes dry mouth and how does it impact oral health?
Dry mouth is beyond simply being thirsty occasionally—everyone gets thirsty, but not everyone suffers from chronic dry mouth. If you have dry mouth, your saliva glands do not produce fast enough or simply enough saliva to keep your mouth hydrated. Your mouth quickly dries out, even if you drink plenty of water; it feels sticky (cottonmouth), and sores may form. If you experience these systems, here are some of the causes of dry mouth and how it can affect your oral health.
Causes of Dry Mouth
There are many different causes of dry mouth. The most common include:
- Medications – Many different types of medications, especially those used to treat anxiety, acne, hypertension, and asthma can cause dry mouth. These medications affect the mouth’s ability to produce enough saliva, causing the tissue in your mouth to become dry.
- Infections and diseases in the body – While infections in the mouth can cause dry mouth, infections and diseases throughout the body can also cause this condition. Diabetes, for example, can cause dry mouth, as can cystic fibrosis, arthritis, a stroke, hypertension, and AIDS.
- Medical treatments – Some medical treatments, like chemotherapy, can damage the saliva glands in the mouth, making it impossible for them to produce saliva, and therefore drying out the mouth.
- Dehydration – Even the common cold or a flu can cause significant dehydration, which makes it difficult for the mouth to produce enough saliva. Additionally, if you are just not drinking enough water, you might become chronically dehydrated, which can cause chronic dry mouth.
- Smoking/chewing tobacco – These habits can wreak havoc on your mouth, disrupting normal saliva production and irritating an already dry mouth.
Impact on Oral Health
Is dry mouth a cause for concern? Dry mouth comes along with a number of annoying symptoms, including a sore throat, inability to taste properly, and a swollen, red tongue. Aside from these symptoms, dry mouth can precipitate many serious oral health conditions. Dry mouth contributes to the development of gingivitis, speeds up tooth decay, makes it difficult for the mouth to fight infection, and can weaken teeth, besides just being uncomfortable.
The mouth (and body) needs saliva to help digest food, clean the mouth, and fight the development of bad bacteria. If simply drinking water does not relieve your dry mouth, you may have a serious condition and should discuss this problem with your dentist or doctor.