Dry mouth, also called xerostomia, can occur when there is insufficient saliva in the mouth. If you have trouble chewing or swallowing, or if you wake up with a sticky, dry feeling in your mouth, you could have dry mouth. The lack of saliva can make even talking difficult. Deciding how to treat dry mouth often depends upon its cause. At-home treatment can often be helpful, but if these measures don’t provide relief, your dentist can provide additional assistance.
How to Treat Dry Mouth – At-Home Treatment
Dry mouth can occur for a variety of reasons. Perhaps the most obvious cause is medications a person may be taking, radiation and chemotherapy treatments, diseases affecting the salivary glands, diabetes, hormonal imbalance and autoimmune diseases such as Sjörgren’s syndrome.
Treating dry mouth can reduce the likelihood of developing mouth sores, gum disease, oral thrush and tooth decay. The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research suggests the following general approaches to help treat dry mouth:
- Chew sugar-free gum or suck on sugar-free candy to stimulate salivary glands
- Drink water regularly throughout the day
- Use over-the-counter artificial saliva
- Run a humidifier in your bedroom at night
Stimulating the salivary glands with sugar-free gum or candy is a useful treatment if your salivary glands or the nerves that serve them are not affected. Since some causes of dry mouth simply reduce salivary production, stimulation will help increase the overall moisture level in your mouth.
Some dry-mouth sufferers wake up in the middle of the night with a sticky or dry feeling in their mouths, or even a feeling like the back of their throat is too dry to breathe. If you experience these symptoms, it could be because you are breathing through your mouth as you sleep. To alleviate this unpleasant situation, keep a glass of water bedside and run a humidifier in your bedroom. This is particularly helpful if you live in an arid climate. Drinking plenty of water can also keep your oral tissues moist throughout the day, which is also very important in dry climates.
Avoiding certain foods and habits can also help to alleviate dry mouth. Mayo Clinic suggests the following changes in diet and lifestyle if you suffer from xerostomia:
- Stop smoking
- Reduce or eliminate caffeine
- Use only alcohol-free mouthwash
If stimulating the salivary glands or making changes in your diet or lifestyle don’t provide sufficient relief to treat dry mouth, over-the-counter treatments are also available at your local pharmacy. Artificial saliva supplements allow you to add moisture to your mouth when needed and can provide relief throughout the day. Mayo Clinic recommends products containing xylitol, carboxymethylcellulose or hydroxyethylcellulose.
Dry Mouth Treatment from Your Doctor or Dentist
If these methods do not provide sufficient relief, your doctor or dentist might prescribe medication to help your salivary glands function more efficiently. Prescription medications are often used to treat patients with underlying medical conditions that reduce saliva flow. These conditions include Sjögren’s syndrome, systemic lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Numerous medications cause dry mouth as a side effect. If you’ve just started a new medication and are suddenly noticing dryness, consult your doctor. He might modify your dosage or give you a different medication to alleviate your symptoms. Never change your prescription medication dosage without consulting with your doctor first.
Dry mouth is uncomfortable and inconvenient and can lead to gum disease and dental decay. If you are experiencing symptoms, speak to your dentist about how to treat dry mouth to prevent long-term issues.