Here are the 10 reasons you get… a dry mouth
A persistent dry mouth – known medically as xerostomia – affects up to one in five people
1 IT’S HORMONAL
A dry mouth is normal if you are dehydrated or feeling nervous – anxiety can lead to increased breathing through the mouth, which causes saliva to evaporate faster than it is replenished.
However, a persistent dry mouth – known medically as xerostomia – affects up to one in five of the population and can be a sign of a problem. The menopause is a common trigger, as the change in hormonal balance leads to drying of all mucous membranes.
2 THE PROBLEM’S IN YOUR NOSE
A lack of saliva leads to friction in the mouth when talking and eating, resulting in discomfort, ulcers and sores. Persistent ‘mouth breathing’ can be caused by a blocked nose as a result of a cold or hay fever.
It can also be caused by narrow or obstructed nasal airways, having an overbite which causes the lips to not close properly at night, or abnormally large tonsils. A decongestant may bring short-term relief, but read on…
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3 BLAME YOUR DECONGESTANT…
Decongestant medications work by shrinking blood vessels in the mucous membranes, reducing inflammation and easing breathing. An indirect effect of this action is that less fluid from the circulation gets into the nasal cavity – so decongestants do ‘dry you up’. In the short term this is a relief, but when used long-term, this effect can cause an uncomfortably dry nose and mouth.
4 …OR YOUR MOUTHWASH
Mouthwashes that contain alcohol are double-edged swords, because though they kill harmful bacteria in the mouth, they can cause dryness.
This is because the alcohol in the mouthwash irritates the mouth’s mucous membranes and dehydrates them.
Mouthwashes that contain alcohol are double-edged swords, because though they kill harmful bacteria in the mouth, they can cause dryness
Saliva is the mouth’s natural ‘cleanser’ and protects against tooth decay and gum disease, so a dry mouth is a risk factor for both. Avoid this by choosing a non-alcohol based mouthwash.
5 ACID REFLUX
A dry mouth is a less common side effect of gastroesophageal reflux disease – sometimes called heartburn.
When stomach acid travels up the oesophagus to the throat, this causes irritation and inflammation that can dry out the throat and mouth, prompting increased swallowing of saliva to lubricate the throat and alleviate the dryness.
6 TOO MUCH COFFEE
High consumption of caffeinated drinks can lead to dehydration. Caffeine is a mild diuretic, meaning that it makes you urinate more frequently. In addition, tannins – a naturally occurring plant compound found in coffee and several types of tea – cause a dry sensation in the mouth.
7 BLAME DIABETES
Consistent high blood sugar levels caused by untreated diabetes can lead to dry mouth.
As well as tiredness and weight loss, symptoms of hyperglycaemia include a more frequent need to urinate.
Consistent high blood sugar levels caused by untreated diabetes can lead to dry mouth
When there is a high concentration of glucose in the blood, the kidneys lose capacity to reabsorb fluid, instead flushing it out as urine, dehydrating the body. Dry mouth can also be caused by diabetes medication.
8 IT’S YOUR JOINTS
Diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus or vasculitis – inflammation of the blood vessels – can cause secondary Sjögren’s syndrome, a condition in which the immune system attacks the body’s tear and saliva glands, causing dry mouth and eyes.
Nine out of ten sufferers are women and it commonly appears in late middle age. There is no cure, but medication can help stimulate saliva production.
9 A BLOW TO THE HEAD
Two of the three pairs of the salivary glands are stimulated by two facial nerves that run through the temporal bones at the sides and base of the skull.
Head trauma to the temporal bones can damage the facial nerve, and cause dry mouth
Head trauma to the temporal bones can damage the facial nerve, and therefore cause dry mouth.
A longitudinal fracture, caused by a blow to the side of the head in incidents such as traffic accidents, falls, assaults or falling off a bike, accounts for 80 per cent of temporal bone fractures.
10 IT’S THE PILLS
Xerostomia is a common side effect of more than 400 medications, both prescription and over-the-counter.
Cancer treatments such as radiotherapy and chemotherapy also commonly cause a dry mouth, and patients are often advised to suck ice lollies to reduce the discomfort.