Known medically as xerostomia, dry mouth is an uncomfortable problem that affects roughly one in four adults(1). When your body isn’t producing enough saliva, you can experience problems with chewing and swallowing. Many people also develop bad breath and, if left untreated, over time this develops into halitosis.
How to alleviate bad breath or halitosis
Two of the key areas to focus upon when trying to get rid of bad breath caused by dry mouth is hydration and oral hygiene. Ensure you are brushing twice a day minimum, flossing daily, and using an alcohol free oral rinse for fresh breath confidence such as UltraDEX. Also aim to drink around 2 litres of water a day(5), the recommended amount for adults. This will keep your mouth moist and also help wash debris or bacteria away between brushing which are key bad breath triggers(6).
Why is saliva important?
Salvia is integral to the overall function and hygiene of the oral cavity. Not only does saliva enable us to taste, swallow, speak and digest food, it also helps protect our teeth and mouth from infections(2). Although salvia is 99% water, the remaining components of electrolytes, enzymes and proteins are extremely important for a complete and healthy oral function(3).
Dry mouth and your teeth
Without ample saliva being produced, the likelihood of developing plaque, which leads to tooth decay or even tooth loss, is heightened(7). If you are struggling with a dry mouth and are waiting to see a medical professional you can help yourself by brushing your teeth after every meal, flossing daily, and using a gentle toothpaste that contains fluoride. Fluoride makes your teeth more resistant to attacks from bacteria and sugars in the mouth and can reverse early signs of decay.
Causes of dry mouth
Dry mouth can be caused by a number of lifestyle or medical factors, all resulting in the salivary glands working incorrectly. These include:
- Certain types of medication
- Stress or anxiety
- Poor dental health
Medications which cause dry mouth
Whilst there are a number of reasons that somebody can get dry mouth, one of the most common is linked to medication use. There are several hundred regularly prescribed medications that can cause or exacerbate dry mouth(4) – these include antihistamines, antidepressants, diuretics, analgesics and antihypertensives. These drugs affect the quantity and quality of saliva produced in different ways but all can result in dry mouth and associated halitosis.
Dry mouth as an indicator of underlying illness
Whilst for most people dry mouth is caused by a minor, there are instances when dry mouth is a symptom of disease. The most common illness related to dry mouth is Sjogren’s syndrome – an autoimmune disease that results in dry eyes and dry mouth.
However, Sjogren’s can be an indication that your salivary glands are subject to another illness, and Sjogren’s is a symptom of this underlying issue. Lupus, diabetes, HIV, pneumonia, bronchitis, and rheumatoid arthritis can all have dry mouth as a side effect.
Prolonged dry mouth
Whilst many people go through spells of having a dry mouth, if episodes are prolonged or it becomes your new normal, you need to seek medical help. Dry throat, mouth sores and cracked lips are side effects of long periods of dry mouth. More serious conditions such as oral infections and gum disease can also occur if long term dry mouth is left untreated.
- Dentistry iQ. 2006. Facts about dry mouth. Available online: https://www.dentistryiq.com/articles/rdh/2006/05/facts-about-dry-mouth.html
- Wilkins, EM. 2005. Clinical Practice of the Dental Hygienist: 387-388.
- 2010. Salvia: More than just water in your mouth. Available online: http://www.eufic.org/en/healthy-living/article/saliva-more-than-just-water-in-your-mouth
- Bartok, V RPh. 2011. Drug-Induced Dry Mouth. Available online: http://www.pharmacytimes.com/publications/issue/2011/november2011/drug-induced-dry-mouth
- Gunnars, K BSc. 2016. How Much Water Should You Drink Per Day? Available online: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-much-water-should-you-drink-per-day
- American Dental Association. Unknown. 4 Reasons Water Is the Best Beverage for Your Teeth. Available online: https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/nutrition/food-tips/water-best-beverage
- Unknown. Dental Health and Dry Mouth. Available online: https://www.webmd.com/oral-health/guide/dental-health-dry-mouth#1