Xerostomia, otherwise known as dry mouth, occurs when you don’t produce enough saliva. It doesn’t usually cause major problems, but it can be serious in rare cases.
It sounds obvious, but in many cases a dry mouth is simply due to a lack of fluids. It may come about after suffering a problem that leads to dehydration, such as a fever, excessive sweating, vomiting, diarrhoea, blood loss and burns.
While several medications are designed to help, there can be side effects to the strong treatments. These include blood-pressure drugs, antihistamines, antidepressants, diuretics, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories and many others. If you have any serious concerns, talk to a medical professional.
A dry mouth can be one of the early signs of diabetes. High blood sugar levels can cause your mouth to dry out and leave you feeling constantly thirsty. If you also have other symptoms, such as unexplained weight loss, fatigue, nausea, blurry vision and numb feet, see your GP.
Case of the blues
It’s not one of the commonly mentioned symptoms when it comes to depression, but xerostomia can also be a sign of low mood. It is linked to anxiety, as people feeling stressed tend to breathe through their mouth instead of their nose, and when they do this, their frequently open mouth can get very dry.
People with acid reflux problems may be more prone to dry mouth. When your body produces extra acid, this can affect salivary glands, leading to less saliva in the mouth and a feeling of dryness. It can also result in a sticky feeling and bad taste in your mouth, both related to xerostomia.
Some autoimmune conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus and Sjogren’s syndrome, cause your mouth to become very dry. If you have Sjogren’s syndrome, you will also have very dry eyes, with the glands that produce tears and saliva being destroyed.infectionYour salivary gland may not be working properly. An infection can disrupt saliva production. People undergoing radiotherapy are susceptible to dry mouth.
What to do
• Get treatment for the problem that is causing the xerostomia.
• Regularly sip water.
• Try sugar-free chewing gum to encourage saliva production.
• Ask your doctor to prescribe medication that encourages your body to produce more saliva.
• Avoid alcohol, caffeine and smoking.
• Practise breathing through your nose.