What Causes Dry Mouth?

posted by Dr. Beau Beecher, DDS on 1/12/2023 in General

woman drinking glass of water

Does your throat feel sore? Are you swallowing frequently? Do you feel thirsty all the time? You might be suffering from dry mouth. The good news is you are not alone. The American Dental Health Association estimates as much as 65% of the general population experiences dry mouth. Read on to learn more about this condition and see what you can do to alleviate its symptoms.

What is Dry Mouth?

Dry mouth, also known as xerostomia, describes the medical condition where your salivary glands don’t produce enough saliva to keep your mouth hydrated. It can be a very uncomfortable condition. If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, schedule a dentist appointment immediately. 

Symptoms of dry mouth:

  • Mouth feels dry or sticky
  • Sore throat
  • Hoarseness
  • Thick or sticky saliva
  • Bad breath or halitosis
  • Sense of taste has changed 
  • Struggling to chew, swallow, or speak

Ignoring dry mouth symptoms can lead to severe dental problems such as:  

These dental issues may require you to get tooth fillings or dental crowns. To avoid undergoing these procedures, address any dry mouth symptoms with your dentist as soon as possible.   

What Causes Dry Mouth?

Now that you understand dry mouth and its symptoms, you’ll want to know what causes it. Here are five of the primary causes of this common dental issue.

Medication Side Effects

Many common medications like antihistamines and antidepressants can cause dry mouth. If you take any medications, review the side effects to see if dry mouth is listed. If it is one of the side effects, talk to your dentist about how you can alleviate any discomfort you may experience.  

Breathing Through Your Mouth 

Most people breathe through their nose, but if you suffer from nasal congestion, you might have to breathe through your mouth. Be careful not to let this become a habit as breathing through your mouth dries out the existing salvia. When this happens on a regular basis, it can lead to dry mouth.

Radiation and Chemotherapy

Cancer treatments such as radiation and chemotherapy can cause dry mouth. This is because when radiation treatments are applied to your head and neck, it can interfere with normal saliva production. Chemotherapy can also modify the amount of saliva your mouth produces. If you are undergoing either of these treatments, be aware you may experience dry mouth.


Dry mouth can be an early indicator of type 1 or type 2 diabetes. A diabetic has high sugar levels in their blood that their body cannot lower naturally. Unfortunately, increased levels of sugar can cause dry mouth. However, just because you suffer from dry mouth doesn’t mean you have diabetes and vice versa. If you are experiencing dry mouth symptoms, talk to your doctor or dentist. They can test to see if it is a precursor for diabetes.     

Alcohol and Tobacco

Ever notice after a heavy night of drinking you wake up with a dry throat and mouth? That is because alcohol decreases saliva flow and this results in the dry mouth sensation. Similarly, the nicotine in cigarettes and tobacco also reduce saliva flow. If you are a frequent smoker or drinker, consider limiting these habits so you can improve your dental health. After all, alcohol and tobacco are also primary causes of oral cancer.           

How to Relieve Your Dry Mouth

Fortunately, it is relatively easy to relieve dry mouth. The following tips can help reduce discomfort:

  • Drink less coffee and alcohol. Caffeine and alcohol can make your mouth drier. Try to limit your coffee intake throughout the day. 
  • Drink more water. Although drinking more water can’t completely cure dry mouth, it can help alleviate the feeling of dryness. Sipping water regularly and drinking at least 8-10 glasses of water a day can keep your body hydrated. 
  • Chew sugar-free gum or eat sugar-free candy. Sugar-free gum and candy is good for you when you are suffering from dry mouth. Chewing sugar-free gum or eating candy stimulates saliva production. The presence of more saliva in your mouth will relieve any symptoms you are feeling.   
  • Use a humidifier at night. During the night, the air can become drier, which can exacerbate your dry mouth symptoms. Use a humidifier at night to add moisture to your bedroom. You can also use a humidifier during the day to see if it helps with your symptoms.   
  • Visit your dentist regularly. Your dentist can be your best friend when it comes to helping you avoid or alleviate dental issues. This is why it is recommended to visit the dentist every six months.                                                                              

Prevent Dry Mouth With a Kimball & Beecher Dentist

If you’re experiencing uncomfortable and consistent dryness in your mouth and throat, it’s time to visit your dentist. Don’t have a dentist or want to choose a new dental professional who’s friendly and empathetic? Try a Kimball & Beecher dentist. 

Our skilled dentists and staff know how  to create a comfortable environment for first-time patients. We look forward to helping you deal with dry mouth and any other dental issues. Schedule an appointment with a Kimball & Beecher dentist today.

About The Author

Dr. Beau Beecher, DDS

Dr. Beau Beecher is the founder and CEO, of Kimball and Beecher Family Dentistry. Kimball and Beecher Family Dentistry is known for being a patient-centered practice that puts comfort and convenience first. Over 50,000 patients in Iowa cities travel miles to experience the high level of ... read more

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