Dry mouth (oligostomia, xerostomia) is often a side effect of stress or stage fright. During stress – for example shortly before a speech – the tongue can stick to the dry palate. This is unpleasant, but passes quickly. A longer problem, on the other hand Quantum Behavioral Health Services, can be dry mouth, which is triggered by medication or illness. Read more about the causes of dry mouth and dry mouth at night treatment options.

Dry mouth: Causes and possible diseases

Normally, six large and countless small salivary glands keep our oral cavity moist with about half a liter to 1.5 liters of saliva daily. If this is not (or no longer) the case, it manifests itself in a dry mouth.

Often there are only harmless causes behind the lack of saliva. Medication in particular has a negative effect on saliva flow as a side effect. Often, however, a serious disease causes dry mouth, such as Sjögren’s syndrome – one of the more common autoimmune diseases.

Unpleasant consequences

But regardless of whether the cause is harmless or serious, dry mouth is always unpleasant in itself. If the mouth is dry, speaking and especially swallowing become a pain. In most cases, tasting is also impaired or the mouth burns. Since saliva also has the task of making the food pulp slippery and helps it to decompose by means of enzymes, hard edges on the food can cause painful injuries to the palate or the oral mucosa in dry mouth – this further intensifies the agony.

In addition, the teeth lack the protective and cleansing function of saliva, which contains ions such as sodium, calcium or fluoride. Bacteria and food debris are now no longer washed away, the body’s own antibodies are reduced, and acids in the food are no longer sufficiently neutralized. The consequences of dry mouth are bad breath, decayed teeth, and inflammation of the oral mucosa and periodontium.

General causes and diseases 

Lack of fluids: Either through not drinking enough or through too much fluid loss through sports, diarrhea or vomiting, saliva production may be reduced – resulting in a dry mouth.

Dry air: Especially in winter, dry heating air irritates the mucous membranes of the respiratory tract. A dry nose, reddened eyes and dry mouth are the consequences.

Age: In old age, not only are bodily functions slowed down, older people also drink less and often take various medications; both of these factors together can also have a negative effect on salivary flow.

Mouth breathing: Children in particular often habitually breathe through their mouths – torn lips and corners of the mouth as well as dry mucous membranes and bad teeth are often the consequences here. However, a constantly blocked nose can also be the cause of mouth breathing.

Snoring: In snoring, the affected person also breathes only through the mouth – hoarseness and a dried mouth in the morning can be signs that you are a “snorer”.

Psyche: The sympathetic nervous system, a part of the nervous system, prepares the body for fight or flight in dangerous situations: The heart beats faster, the respiratory tract expands, and all organ functions that are not important at the moment are throttled back – including digestion and salivation. Dry mouth is thus a typical symptom of stress. But dry mouth is also often a symptom of depression or anxiety disorders.

Smoking: Nicotine constricts the blood vessels and thus inhibits blood circulation in the body; in addition, smoke particles stick to the mucous membranes of the mouth and dry them out. Altogether, this causes the mouth to become dry.

Salivary gland tumors: Malignant as well as benign tumors of the salivary glands can limit their ability to function. One of the possible signs of this is a dry mouth.

Cold, inflamed sinuses: When the nose is stuffy, the affected person breathes through the mouth – which then becomes dry.

Autoimmune diseases: Sjögren’s syndrome (sicca syndrome, dry mouth syndrome) particularly affects women after menopause. Here, chronic inflammation destroys the tear and salivary glands. Typical symptoms are dry mouth, reddened mucous membranes, burning tongue, dry nose and eyes, and swollen salivary glands.

Metabolic diseases: Diabetes mellitus in particular is initially manifested by nonspecific symptoms such as frequent urination, a strong feeling of thirst and a dry mouth, difficulty concentrating or headaches.

Diabetes insipidus: Sounds similar to diabetes mellitus, but is a different disease. Due to a hormonal disorder, there is a massive loss of urine. The resulting heavy loss of water is manifested by a dry mouth and a great feeling of thirst.

Sialadenosis: This painless bilateral swelling of the salivary glands can also reduce the flow of saliva. The causes are varied and range from eating disorders to alcoholism to hormonal imbalances.

Sialadenitis: This group of inflammatory salivary gland diseases is accompanied by dry mouth. Possible causes include bacteria, viruses, sarcoidosis or the above-mentioned Sjögren’s syndrome. Radiation therapy for tumors in the head and neck area can also trigger sialadenitis.

Radiation: Radiation therapy for tumors in the head and neck often damages the salivary glands. The tissue may become inflamed (sialadenitis) or even remain destroyed in the long term. Sometimes the mouth remains permanently dry, and those affected experience taste disorders or burning of the tongue.

Medications and drugs

Many medications as well as some drugs affect the autonomic nervous system, which is responsible for controlling saliva production. Dry mouth is a particularly common side effect of the following drugs:

Antihypertensives: these drugs lower blood pressure and are therefore prescribed for high blood pressure (hypertension). They include beta blockers, ACE inhibitors, diuretics and calcium antagonists.

Painkillers: strong drugs from the opioid group cause dry mouth.

Antiparkinsonian drugs: Some dopamine agonists used to treat Parkinson’s disease trigger dry mouth.

Sedatives and sleeping pills: Anticonvulsant medications (spasmolytics), some sleeping pills (hypnotics), and tranquilizers (sedatives) can also be responsible for causing (and keeping) a dry mouth.

Antihistamines: these are agents used to treat allergies. They can also trigger dry mouth as a side effect.

Anticholinergics: These drugs inhibit the action of acetylcholine – the main messenger of the parasympathetic nervous system (“antagonist” of the sympathetic nervous system). They are used, for example, in asthma as well as irritable bladder – with dry mouth as a possible side effect.

Cytostatics: These are drugs that are administered as part of chemotherapy for cancer. They can inhibit the growth and multiplication of fast-growing cells (such as cancer cells). The unpleasant side effect is often severe dry mouth.

Antiepileptic drugs: These are medications used for epilepsy. They, too, can cause dry mouth.

Antiemetics: Medicines for nausea and vomiting often cause dry mouth.

Psychotropic drugs: Some drugs for depression (antidepressants) as well as for anxiety (neuroleptics) also often result in dry mouth.

Illegal drugs: The active ingredients in cannabis, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) as well as other illegal drugs such as cocaine or ecstasy (MDMA), impair the function of the salivary glands. This can cause the mouth to dry out.

Dry Mouth Treatment At Home

Chew well: Swallowing is already difficult when your mouth is dry – which makes it all the more important to chew thoroughly. This also promotes the flow of saliva.

Drink plenty of fluids: Make sure you drink enough – especially if you lose more fluids through exercise or diarrhea. Water and sugar-free fruit teas are particularly suitable for rinsing out the mouth between meals and keeping it moist.

Stimulate salivation: Chewing gum and sour drops get saliva production going at full speed. It is best to use sugar-free chewing gum or drops, as the teeth are at the mercy of many bacteria due to the lack of saliva. Chewing gums with xylitol as a sugar substitute are suitable here; it has a proven antibacterial effect.

Good oral hygiene: To additionally protect the teeth from caries and periodontitis, you should pay attention to careful oral hygiene. This includes brushing your teeth twice a day with fluoridated toothpaste. In addition, you can apply a fluoride gel to your teeth once a week. Also, go to the dentist regularly for check-ups!

Stop smoking: Smoking dries out your mouth in particular. The only thing that helps here is to kick the habit of this unhealthy vice.

Professional Treatment for Dry Mouth

In certain situations, a dry mouth simply cannot be avoided – especially if you are under stress or have not drunk much during the day. But the unpleasant dry mouth can also be caused by diseases of the salivary glands or systemic disorders. You should always consult a doctor if you notice any suspicious changes yourself. Examples are:

  • The dry mouth does not only exist for a short time, but over a longer period of time or occurs again and again.
  • They have problems chewing, speaking or swallowing and often need to take a sip of water.
  • Not only is the mouth dry, but the nose and eyes are too. In addition, there may be a burning sensation in the mouth.
  • The salivary glands are swollen palpably – with or without pain.
  • The dry mouth has set in since I took a new drug.
  • You suffer from extraordinary psychological stress.

You have additional symptoms such as blurred vision, nausea and vomiting – this may be poisoning, which is why you should see a doctor as soon as possible!

Dry mouth is accompanied by changes in taste, gum problems, dental caries or bad breath, body aches, frequent urination, feeling very thirsty, headache and / or a general feeling of illness.