How to Diagnose and Treat Dry Mouth

woman drinking water

Standing in front of a crowd on the cusp of giving your first speech, staring into your girlfriend’s eyes right before you ask her to marry you, stepping up to the mic on the verge of your first karaoke performance — these are the moments in life that make your skin tingle, your heart race…and your mouth go dry.

Tingling skin and a quickening of your heartbeat can be fun and exciting, but dry mouth is rarely a welcome experience. It can kill a kiss, make you trip over your words, and extend all the way down into your throat, limiting your ability to sing a single note. In most of these situations, you might assume anxiety is to blame for the sudden lack of moisture, but that might not be the case. If you are experiencing dry mouth on a regular basis, the potential causes of it and the effects it can have on your oral health are reason enough to seek out more information and help.

What are the symptoms of dry mouth?

How do you know if your dry-mouth experience is just a result of being overly nervous or excited or whether it’s an actual condition you need to resolve? The following are some of the symptoms that, if persistent, may indicate you are suffering from ongoing dry mouth:

  • Thick and stringy saliva
  • Dryness in mouth and throat
  • Difficulty speaking and swallowing
  • Your sense of taste seems off
  • You experience bad breath
  • You notice an increase in tooth decay

What causes dry mouth?

Some of the common causes of dry mouth include:

  • Medications: Over-the-counter and prescription medications can cause dry mouth. Drugs used to treat anxiety, depression, nausea, and asthma are just a couple of the common culprits of dry mouth.
  • Nerve damage: Nerve damage to the head and neck from trauma or surgery may cause it.
  • Dehydration: Dehydration can occur as a result of illnesses that come with high fever, excessive sweating, and bouts of vomiting and diarrhea. It can also occur when overheated for long periods of time without the intake of fluids.
  • Tobacco and alcohol use: Alcohol and tobacco are drying, and they can cause and aggravate dry mouth.
  • Health conditions: Sjogren’s syndrome, HIV/AIDS, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, anemia, hypertension, and Parkinson’s disease are just some conditions that can cause dry mouth.

What are the complications associated with dry mouth?

Prolonged dry mouth can lead to oral-health complications. Saliva doesn’t just keep our mouths moist so we can kiss, speak, and eat well; it is essential for digestion, rinsing and cleaning our teeth, and controlling bacteria. Dry mouth can lead to:

  • Sores in the mouth
  • Fungal and bacterial infections
  • Chronic bad breath
  • Increased tooth decay
  • Gingivitis and periodontal disease

How is dry mouth diagnosed?

If you think you might be suffering from dry mouth, you should set up an appointment with your dentist. Your provider will review your medical history and perform a visual inspection of your mouth. In some cases, they may run a blood test and imaging scans of your salivary glands to measure how much saliva you are producing. If your dentist suspects Sjogren’s syndrome is causing your dry mouth, they may choose to take some biopsies.

What are common treatments for dry mouth?

Your dentist will determine the best treatment for your case of dry mouth based on the cause. If your medications are causing your symptoms, they might be able to be adjusted or changed. There are also products that include prescription and over-the-counter rinses that can be used to moisturize your mouth. Other medications can be prescribed to stimulate your saliva. There are also steps you can take to improve your flow of saliva (they are particularly useful when your dry mouth is caused by excitement or stress):

  • Stay hydrated and drink extra water
  • Focus on breathing primarily through your nose instead of your mouth
  • Use a humidifier or vaporizer to add moisture to your home environment
  • Chew sugar-free gum or suck on sugar-free candy

If you would like to know more about the causes, effects, and treatments available for chronic dry mouth, call us today at (360) 695-1515.