7 Common Causes of Dry Mouth

Mar 17, 2024 | Blog Posts

7 Common Causes of Dry Mouth

Have you experienced the symptoms of dry mouth? If so, you’re not alone. As many as 22% of people suffer from dry mouth[1]. With dry mouth, you may have a sticky or dry feeling in your mouth, trouble swallowing, bad breath, or sore throat. Understanding the causes of dry mouth can help protect you against tooth decay and gum disease, as saliva production is essential for good oral health.

What Is Dry Mouth?

Dry mouth is a condition where the salivary glands do not create enough saliva to maintain sufficient levels. The result is that your mouth feels physically dry due to the lack of saliva. In many cases, dry mouth is most noticeable upon waking, although it can also occur at other times.

The condition is more serious than simply having an unpleasant feeling in your mouth. Saliva plays an essential role in protecting your teeth and gums. This is because it has antibacterial properties that regulate bacteria levels. Without saliva, bacteria can grow significantly and cause tooth decay and gum disease.

The 7 Common Causes of Dry Mouth

Developing a dry mouth depends on the presence of certain factors. You may experience one or several of these risk factors. Which factors are present will determine the right course of action to deal with dry mouth, whether that means lifestyle changes or dental treatment. Take a closer look at these seven common causes of dry mouth:

1. Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is among the most common causes of dry mouth. It is a condition where the airway relaxes and closes during sleep, restricting breathing and causing you to jolt awake suddenly. It is more frequently associated with snoring.

Dry mouth is a very common symptom of sleep apnea, and your dentist may refer you to a sleep specialist if they suspect that to be the primary cause. Several treatment options are available, such as mouth guards to hold your jaw in a position to prevent snoring and airway closure. Addressing your sleep apnea can ultimately lessen your dry mouth symptoms along the way.

2. Mouth Breathing

Breathing through your mouth either through the day or during sleep can lead to dry mouth. When breathing, you’ll have reduced saliva flow and may experience significant dry mouth symptoms.

Mouth breathing can arise as a habit during early childhood, and many parents seek out early orthodontic treatment for their children to correct it. You might also experience mouth breathing temporarily due to nasal congestion from allergies or infection.

3. Underlying Medical Conditions

Many medical conditions are considered risk factors for dry mouth. Diabetes is one of the most prominent and is also closely associated with sleep apnea and gum disease. Anemia and rheumatoid arthritis are other common examples.

The full range of conditions contributing to dry mouth is extensive. For example, Parkinson’s disease, cerebral palsy, Alzheimer’s, amyloidosis, and many more conditions are considered risk factors. The medication you take for various conditions could also be a factor.

4. Diet

Your diet is also another potential factor that can lead to dry mouth. Many common beverages can impact your saliva production. This includes excessively sugary beverages and those high in caffeine.

Regular coffee drinkers are the most common individuals developing dry mouth. Various acidic or spicy foods that irritate the mouth can also lead to dry mouth. Salty or dry foods, in particular, may also lead to temporary dry mouth or worsen an existing condition.

5. Dehydration

Many people would assume that dehydration is a primary cause of dry mouth. While dehydration can lead to dry mouth, assuming dehydration is always the root cause can lead to overlooking other serious issues. Still, there are times when dehydration is to blame for dry mouth.

Your body requires adequate water to generate saliva. Staying hydrated throughout the day with cool, pure water supports your oral and overall health, effectively reducing dry mouth symptoms. Avoid sparkling water— even if it’s sugar-free — as the acidity can harm your smile.

6. Aging

Dry mouth can affect patients of essentially any age. However, it becomes much more common with age. In many cases, risk factors such as underlying medical conditions and sleep apnea also increase with age.

This is why keeping up with routine dental exams is critical at any age. Your dentist can identify dry mouth and other issues affecting oral health and provide effective solutions.

7. Tobacco and Alcohol Use

Tobacco and alcohol use are both habits that harm many aspects of your health. This includes putting you at an increased risk of dry mouth and the potential tooth decay and gum disease that come with it. Significant alcohol consumption reduces saliva flow rate and results in overall dehydration.

Tobacco use of any kind can be just as harmful. It can seriously impact oral health and saliva flow. Avoiding tobacco use can provide a variety of benefits for your long-term oral health, including reducing dry mouth symptoms.

Taking Action Against Dry Mouth

The best way to approach treatment for dry mouth is typically to identify the underlying causes and work to resolve them. At Albion Family Dental, our knowledgeable team can determine the factors behind this condition and provide the effective treatment options you need to address it. Schedule your next appointment today to learn more about our dry mouth treatments in Albion, NY. Call us at 585-589-9044.



[1] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30517485/