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Why Is My Mouth So Dry?

There are many underlying reasons someone’s mouth may be dry. Here are the common causes and symptoms of dry mouth according to dental experts.

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The moisture in our mouths is what helps keep our teeth and gums healthy. It’s also what helps us swallow our food, and even speak properly. Saliva is what helps the molecules and bacteria that are housed in our mouth break down and clean themselves. When our mouth becomes dry, it could be the cause of an underlying disease, or it could simply be a side effect of a pharmaceutical. Here are the common causes associated with dry mouth, and when it may be time to see a dental specialist.

What Are the Common Symptoms of Dry Mouth?

While dry mouth as a whole can be self-explanatory, there are some other common symptoms associated with it. The symptoms most often seen in dry mouth cases include:

  • Dry tongue
  • Loss of taste, smell
  • Trouble chewing
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Sore throat
  • Bad breath

What Can Cause a Dry Mouth?

Woman Mouth And Broken Tongue

Experiencing a dry mouth can be uncomfortable, and sometimes concerning. Whether or not the cause of your dry mouth is any reason for concern depends on various factors including your health history, genetics, or any drugs or supplements you may be using.

Autoimmune Disorders

Autoimmune diseases are a common occurrence in many people. Chronic inflammation of the body over time can lead to illnesses such as Sjogren’s syndrome. This autoimmune disease affects the glands that make tears and saliva and is usually caused by the immune system attacking itself by mistake. When the immune system continually attacks itself, your body stops producing adequate amounts of saliva that the body needs to keep your mouth clean and healthy.

Recreational Drug Use

Many drugs can also affect our salivary glands and lead to a dry mouth. Recreational drug use from stimulants such as cocaine, meth, and ecstasy, can all lead to dry mouth. Recreational marijuana is also even known to cause dry mouth. The reduction in saliva flow from these drugs causes not only dry mouth but also gum disease or tooth decay.


While dry mouth can be caused by recreational drug use, everyday medications can also lead to dry mouth. Some medications have the ability to suppress the production of acetylcholine (ACh), which is a neurotransmitter that stimulates the production of saliva. The suppression of acetylcholine can also affect the nervous system. Opioids, antidepressants, and allergy medications can all cause dry mouth.

Underlying Illness

In rare cases, an underlying illness could be the cause of dry mouth. Similar to an autoimmune disease like Sjogren’s Syndrome, dry mouth could be one of the tell-tale signs of early onset Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, or HIV/AIDS. In most cases, dry mouth as a symptom alone is not enough information to diagnose any of these illnesses. Further evaluation from a medical professional alongside additional testing is needed to officially determine a positive result from any of these illnesses.

What Treatments Are There for Dry Mouth?

The treatment plan for dry mouth will depend on the underlying cause. If your case of dry mouth is simply due to the side effect of a medication, then the treatment may be simply to stop taking that medication or to find a replacement medication. Overall, whatever the cause, the goal of treatment will be to restore moisture in the mouth. Here are some of the common treatments for dry mouth:

  • Over-the-counter rinse (ACT dry mouth, etc.)
  • Cavity rinse
  • Saliva products, artificial gum
  • Sugar free gum for saliva production

How Can I Prevent Dry Mouth From Occurring?

To prevent dry mouth from occurring, it’s important to consistently take good care of your oral health, as well as your overall physical health. Taking care of your teeth and gums will help keep your mouth producing enough saliva to clean out the bad bacteria in your mouth. Another way to prevent dry mouth may be to assess your current medications or drug use and see if any of those substances could have an influence on your saliva glands.

If you have concerns about your dental health, contact your dentist to schedule an appointment today.

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