8 Tips for Coping With Dry Mouth

  • Dry mouth? Here's how to cope.
    Dry mouth (or xerostomia) is a condition where your mouth feels parched and devoid of all moisture. As a result, you may have difficulty swallowing, tasting and chewing food. It is often caused by a decrease in saliva produced by your salivary glands. There are different reasons why dry mouth occurs. Certain diseases like diabetes, Sjögren syndrome, HIV and thyroid dysfunction can trigger dry mouth symptoms. Dry mouth can also be a side effect of many medications. Stress and cancer treatment procedures like radiation therapy can also contribute to dry mouth. Luckily, there are many things you can do to help you cope.

  • 1. See your physician.
    If you are experiencing dry mouth, first and foremost, talk with your physician. It's important to determine if an underlying medical condition is triggering your symptoms.  When medication is the culprit, your doctor may need to adjust your dosage or change your prescription. If you are diabetic and your blood glucose levels are not under control, you may experience dry mouth symptoms.  Your doctor or dentist may recommend using artificial saliva to keep your mouth moist or prescribe a medication that can help your body produce more saliva.

  • 2. Limit use of antihistamines and decongestants.
    Antihistamines and decongestants can leave your mouth feeling dry. Sinus congestion, difficulty breathing through your nose, and snoring can lead to open mouth breathing, which, according to studies, may predispose you to dry mouth. See a doctor to determine if there is a nasal blockage present.  To curb open mouth breathing, some experts recommend different techniques like: practice putting your tongue on the roof of your mouth throughout the day or practice sealing your lips together.  And try placing a humidifier in your room to increase moisture in the air.

  • 3. Drink water or suck on ice chips throughout the day.
    Drinking water or sucking on ice chips can help make your mouth wet. Also, keep a spray bottle of water nearby and give your mouth a periodic spritz throughout your day. This can help prevent dry, chapped lips and help moisturize your mouth, which is especially important when it comes to eating meals. Chewing and swallowing may become hampered when there isn't enough fluid present to breakdown your food. Try sipping water between bites to help make mealtime less challenging.

  • 4. Chew gum or suck on sugar-free hard candies.
    Chewing gum or sucking on hard candies or popsicles helps stimulate your salivary glands. Experts say the act of chewing stimulates more saliva flow. Chewing signals the nerve endings and receptors in your mouth that provide feedback to the parotid gland, which in turn adapts to secrete more saliva.   Choose gums with xylitol, which can counter bacteria that causes cavities. However, limit the amounts you chew, as xylitol reportedly may cause cramping and diarrhea if consumed in large quantities.

  • 5. Add sauces and gravies to your food.
    Saliva contains enzymes that aid in digestion. Studies suggest when the salivary gland is dysfunctional, swallowing, chewing and taste may be affected. To help you enjoy your meals, try adding gravies and plain sauces to add more moisture to your foods. Be sure to avoid spicy or salty sauces, which can irritate a dry mouth. A dab of butter can also help moisten food, making it a bit easier to chew and swallow.

  • 6. Avoid caffeine, alcohol and tobacco.
    Experts say consuming caffeine and alcohol, and smoking can increase dryness in the mouth.  Try to limit your intake of alcohol, coffee and tea.  Switch to decaffeinated beverages.  Reach for sparkling water instead of soda to help moisten your mouth and hydrate your body. Proper hydration is important in maintaining proper levels of fluids in your body.  The usual daily recommendation is eight 8-ounce glasses of fluid daily. Instead of reaching for that cigarette or chewing tobacco, reach for a stick of gum and try to quit the habit altogether.

  • 7. Maintain proper dental habits to avoid infections and gum irritations.
    Studies suggest saliva helps prevent tooth decay by neutralizing acids produced by bacteria in your mouth and washing away food particles that can cause cavities. Dry mouth reportedly may make you more susceptible to cavities, gum disease and infection. Dental experts recommend flossing daily and brushing your teeth after meals with a fluoride toothpaste. Avoid toothpastes containing sodium lauryl sulphate – a foaming agent that may irritate your gums. See your dentist for periodic checkups and ask about fluoride treatments.

  • 8. Use alcohol-free mouthwash.
    Mouthwash may provide you with some relief, but dentists warn it should be an alcohol-free mouthwash. Experts say alcohol can have a drying effect on your mouth, which can lead to dry, cracked lips and mouth sores. They also suggest applying lip balm and moisturizers to help prevent chapped lips. Dental experts suggest using a fluoride rinse at bedtime and keeping a glass of water nearby to sip in case you wake up feeling dry.

8 Tips for Coping With Dry Mouth
  1. Turner, M and Ship, J. Dry Mouth and Its Effects on the Oral Health of Elderly People. J Am Dent Assoc. 2007;138:15S-20S. 
  2. Van der Reijdena W, Vissinkb  A, et al. Treatment of Oral Dryness Related Complaints (Xerostomia) in Sjogren’s Syndrome. Ann Rheum Dis 1999;58:465-74. http://ard.bmj.com/content/58/8/465.full
  3. Snoring. American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine. http://www.aadsm.org/snoring.aspx
  4. Overview of the Autonomic Nervous System. Merck Manuals for Health Care Professionals http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/neurologic_disorders/autonomic_nervous_system/overview_of_t...
  5. Moore PA, Guggenheimer J, et al. Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus, Xerostomia, and Salivary Flow Rates. Oral Surg Oral Med Oral Pathol Oral Radiol Endod. 2001;92(3):281-91. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11552145
  6. Sjogren's Survival Tips. Sjogren's Syndrome Foundation. https://www.sjogrens.org/home/about-sjogrens/survival-tips
  7. CPAP Dry Mouth. Sleep Apnea Guide. http://www.sleep-apnea-guide.com/cpap-dry-mouth.html
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Last Review Date: 2019 Mar 8
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