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Why is My Mouth So Dry?

By - Bad Breath Expert

Asking yourself why is my mouth so dry even though your fluid intake has not changed indicates something is abnormally decreasing the amount of saliva in your mouth. Dry mouth affects millions of people from time to time due to taking a new medication or suffering from nasal congestion that forces breathing through the mouth. However, when dry mouth continues for no obvious reason and remains untreated, the consequences may eventually cause severe periodontal disease such as tooth decay, gingivitis and plaque. In addition, dry mouth is a leading culprit of chronic bad breath, an extremely embarrassing problem that may reswtrict an individual's ability to socialize.

The Importance of Saliva

salivary glands medial drawingSaliva is one of a thousand necessary components to maintain optimal human health. Not only does lack of saliva (a medical condition called xerostomia) contribute to bad oral hygiene, saliva also performs the following vital functions:

  • Contains antibacterial substances that clean the mouth
  • Eliminates food particles
  • Promotes the digestion process through enzymes that help break down fats and starches for energy
  • Facilitates the action of eating and swallowing by lubricating dry food
  • Protects oral cavity tissues from becoming desiccated and dysfunctional

Saliva is mostly water (98 percent) with glycoproteins, electrolytes, enzymes and mucus constituting the remaining material. Without saliva, we could not talk, breathe or taste our food. In addition, antibacterial properties in saliva protect our mouths from potentially serious fungal infections caused by bacteria that are attracted to moist, warm, anaerobic environments.

Symptoms of Dry Mouth

Other than sensing a constant sticky sensation in your mouth, other symptoms of dry mouth include:

  • Splitting skin and/or sore on mouth corners
  • Cracked and bleeding lips
  • Bad breath that does not go away with use of mouthwashes and increased brushing/flossing
  • Difficulty in swallowing or speaking
  • Sore, scratchy throat not accompanied by common symptoms of respiratory illnesses
  • Abnormal tastes
  • Evidence of gum disease, tartar build-up and/or increased cavities

Individuals genuinely suffering from dry mouth find no relief even after drinking water throughout the day or constantly sucking on mints. Although any kind of moisture will temporarily make the mouth feel less dry, the problem arises from the amount of saliva produced by glands and the mouth's inability to maintain a level of salivation necessary for optimal mouth health.

Why is My Mouth So Dry No Matter What I Do?

Reasons for dry mouth can be external, internal or both. For example, internal causes of xerostomia could arise from diseases like diabetes or nerve damage affecting salivary glands that have not yet been detected by a physician. Diabetes mellitus may cause dry mouth due to changes in blood vessels and increased levels of glucose that decrease saliva output. Diabetics who do not effectively control their blood sugar levels could experience severe halitosis, receding gums, oral abscesses and loose teeth because of chronic dry mouth.

Mild dehydration produced by drinking too many carbonated beverages or too much alcohol and not enough water will cause dry mouth. Individuals suffering from a mild case of dehydration may also experience fatigue, headache and dizziness upon standing, also known as orthostatic hypotension. Drinking six to eight glasses of water each day and avoiding alcohol and soda will reverse the condition if it is indeed simple dehydration. Additional reasons for asking "Why is my mouth so dry?" include these possible external causes:

  • Chronic allergies irritate and swell nasal passages, making it hard to breathe through the nose
  • Over the counter cold medications that contain diphenhydramine (trade name Benadryl) will produce xerostomia as a side effect of shrinking moist nasal tissues
  • Taking antidepressants may cause dry mouth during the first few weeks of use
  • Various prescription medications for hypertension, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease can also cause chronic dry mouth
  • Antipsychotic medications may produce dry mouth due to inhibiting saliva gland production or because of individual reactions to the medications that cause a person to breathe through their mouth

A relatively rare, autoimmune disorder called Sjögren's syndrome creates a condition in which the immune system attacks the exocrine glands and prevents them from producing saliva and tears. An arthritic illness associated with rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus, Sjögren's syndrome causes constant dry eyes and mouth in addition to affecting lungs, kidneys and the liver by reducing the optimal functioning of each organ. A blood test can reveal whether someone has Sjögren's syndrome, with treatment consisting of supportive, symptomatic remedies since there is no cure for the disease.

Dr Katz Discussing Dry Mouth

Dr. Harold Katz discuss bad breath and dry mouth on this CBS Morning Show.

When the answer to the cause of a mouth so dry is not immediately obvious, people suffering from an abnormally dry mouth should take aggressive measures to determine the problem. Unless adequately treated, xerostomia may cause a variety of oral health issues resulting in severe gum disease, tooth loss and possible surgery to rectify potentially dangerous mouth infections. Click here to learn more about dry mouth.

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