Do you suffer from recurring or chronic dry mouth? The underlying causes of “xerostomia” cover a wide range of conditions and factors including:
- Medication side effects (cold and allergy medications, etc.)
- Blocked or infected salivary gland
- Underlying health conditions including diabetes and hypertension
- Salivary gland stone, cyst or tumor
- Damage from radiation or chemotherapy
- Tobacco use
Should I Be Concerned about Dry Mouth?
If you don’t know what’s causing your dry mouth symptoms, it’s a good idea to see your doctor or dentist to figure this out. It may be the sign of a serious health condition. Even if you know what’s making your mouth dry, you shouldn’t ignore this problem. Lack of saliva contributes to plaque buildup and gum disease, which can have a very negative impact on your oral health. Both cavities and tooth loss are more likely in patients who have poor saliva production. If your mouth is often dry, you should be extra careful to brush and floss regularly to prevent gum disease and tooth decay.
At-Home Remedies for Dry Mouth
There are many safe and soothing at-home treatments you can use to treat dry mouth symptoms. Just bear in mind that these don’t address the underlying cause of xerostomia. The only exception is if your dry mouth is caused by dehydration from lack of fluid intake. In that case, drinking plenty of water to stay well-hydrated is a real cure. Drinking lots of water is a good idea regardless of the underlying cause of your symptoms since it keeps your mouth moisturized and helps rinse away bacteria. Here are additional steps you can take to cope with dry mouth:
Stimulate Saliva Production
- Suck on sugar-free hard candy
- Chew sugar-free gum
- Use OTC saliva stimulation lozenges such as Natrol Dry Mouth Relief®
Keep Your Mouth Moist
- Suck on ice chips
- Use a humidifier or vaporizer to increase the moisture level of the air in your home
- Try OTC saliva substitutes such as Moi-Stir® Oral Swabsticks, Optimoist®, etc.
Prevent Additional Drying
- Breathe through your nose rather than your mouth (you may need to adjust your sleep position if you tend to sleep with your mouth open due to mild apnea)
- Avoid mouthwash products that contain alcohol (do use mouthwash that contains fluoride to keep oral bacteria under control)
- Limit the use of OTC medications such as antihistamines that cause dry mouth as a side effect
- Stop using tobacco completely (cigarettes, pipes and smokeless tobacco)
- Cut back on caffeine which can dry out your mouth and contribute to overall dehydration
What Prescription Treatments Are Available for Dry Mouth?
Your dentist or doctor may offer prescription medications such as Salagen® or Evoxac® to manage chronic or severe dry mouth. This treatment approach is most likely if you suffer from a condition called Sjögren’s syndrome or if your salivary glands have been damaged due to cancer treatment. These drugs have their own side effects including excessive sweating, nausea and diarrhea.
If your dry mouth is the result of a salivary gland infection, you may need a course of antibiotics to kill the bacteria. Clindamycin is a commonly prescribed wide-spectrum antibiotic used for treating this kind of infection. If you have a viral salivary gland infection that’s causing dry mouth, you’ll simply need to stay well-hydrated and well-rested while the disease runs its course.
Is There a Surgical Treatment for Dry Mouth?
Yes, in some cases, a bacterial infection in the salivary glands can cause an abscess so large that it needs to be surgically drained. Salivary stones are another common cause of dry mouth that may require surgical intervention (if the stone can’t simply be pulled or squeezed out of the duct). Salivary cysts and tumors are much rarer causes of dry mouth that are dealt with surgically. Whether these are in-patient or out-patient procedures usually depends on the extent of the surgery and the level of infection present. If you have a severely infected salivary gland, hospitalization may be necessary for observation and to ensure that you do not become septic. However, most surgeries to correct salivary gland blockages are minor.