“What’s Causing My Dry Mouth Symptoms?”
Xerostomia — aka “dry mouth” — isn’t just annoying, it can lead to major issues such as halitosis and aggressive tooth decay. You may feel like dry mouth is just something you deal with for no reason, but the truth is that a lot of the products and medications we use every day may be causing your saliva production to wane.
The next time you reach for the medicine cabinet or put something in your mouth, take a moment to pause. Does it include one of the products mentioned below? If so, it could be the source of your chronic dry mouth!
Antihistamines, Decongestants, and Allergy Drugs — Do you struggle with seasonal allergies, hay fever, sinusitis, sneezing, runny nose, or one of a dozen different allergy symptoms? If so, you’re probably like millions of people who regularly take medications like Benadryl, Allegra, Claritin, Zyrtec, or other variations of similar products.
But did you know that both over the counter and prescription-strength allergy medications — including decongestants and antihistamines — dry out more than just your sinuses? They can also dry up your saliva production. Sure, you may not have a runny nose anymore, but now you might also be experiencing a lack of salivary flow. If your mouth feels sticky, dry, or raw, there’s a good chance it’s because your body is just drying itself out from the medication that you’re taking.
Blood Pressure Medications — Alpha and beta-blockers used for treating hypertension (high blood pressure) are known to cause dry mouth. ACE inhibitors are also used for treating kidney disease and diabetes. If you have heart disease or blood pressure problems, you obviously don’t want to stop taking your prescription medication. But you should be aware that xerostomia is a side-effect and take steps to manage the symptoms. Never discontinue your medication without your doctor’s permission, as you could potentially put yourself into a life-threatening situation.
Burning mouth syndrome is a similarly related condition that’s linked to dry mouth and blood pressure medication. The sensation causes the mucosa (skin) inside of your mouth to feel tender and painful. Sometimes the symptoms are so aggressive that eating and drinking is uncomfortable.
Diuretics — Diuretic drugs (also called “water pills”) are used for reducing sodium levels and blood pressure. Some of the most common diuretics include Bumex, Edecrin, Lasix, Demadex, Hygroton, Diuril, Lozol, Mykrox, Esidrix, and dozens of others.
Dry mouth isn’t the only issue people on diuretics battle. The medications can also lead to problems like constipation.
Caffeine — Love coffee? Tea? Soda? Caffeine is a natural diuretic. So, if you notice your mouth feeling dry after that morning cup of jo, it might not just be the lingering “cotton mouth” that you felt when you woke up. By that point, your saliva glands should be flowing freely, especially if you’ve had breakfast. If symptoms persist for a few hours, it’s likely due to the caffeine you ingested for your daily pick-me-up.
Caffeine can stay in your system for several hours, so if you’re drinking caffeinated beverages throughout the day or just a couple of times daily, side-effects like xerostomia may stay with you the entire day. Severe dry mouth? If possible, opt for caffeine-free or reduced caffeine alternatives.
Antidepressants and Anti-Anxiety Medication — If you’re someone who battles issues like depression or anxiety, medication is an important part of your self-care and mental wellness routine. Often times, it’s essential alongside of therapy and other types of support. The downside is that prescription antidepressants, anxiety medications, or other types of psychiatric drugs for behavioral health are that they tend to cause dry mouth.
Some people do well by being on a reduced dose medication. In other scenarios, switching to a different type of prescription drug may be effective. Communicate closely with your physician to determine the best plan of care for holistic (including oral) health.
Cancer Treatments — Battling cancer is one of the most life-changing experiences a person can face. Your dental health may be the last thing on your mind right now. But the truth is that some types of cancer therapies and medications can affect other areas of your body, including your mouth. Knowing what to expect can help you be proactive and reduce your chances of cancer complications.
Radiation Therapy — particularly to the head and neck — can physically destroy your saliva glands and eliminate salivary production. Some chemotherapy agents also affect saliva flow. Always communicate with our Raleigh dentists if you are about to begin a cancer treatment plan, as we will help to equip you with the resources you need to maintain a healthy smile throughout your battle.
Muscle Relaxers — If you live with chronic pain, back problems, or other musculoskeletal diseases, your doctor may have you taking muscle relaxers to ease tension in your body and reduce discomfort. Common muscle relaxers include drugs like Robaxin, Flexeril, Soma, Metaxalone, Tizanidine, and several others.
But apart from sleepiness or constipation, dry mouth is one of the top side-effects of popular muscle relaxers. If you’re feeling fatigued or groggy, you may not have the motivation to care for your teeth as much as you did before. Xerostomia can set in and raise your cavity risk.
Pain Medication — Prescription painkillers are necessary for some people to get through the day. Those that contain opioids are especially likely to lead to chronic dry mouth. Surprisingly, even over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen can also contribute to xerostomia. Work with your physician or pain management specialist to discuss non-narcotic or alternative pain relievers that aren’t as drying to your body (if symptoms are moderate to severe.)
Tobacco Products — Cigarette and pipe smoke tend to seriously dry out your mouth. Even chewing tobacco (snuff) can lead to xerostomia. While there’s not yet a lot of research out there on vaping and other types of smoking alternatives, don’t rule them out entirely. Any time you inhale something into your mouth — especially at a high temperature — you run the risk of tissue changes at the cellular level.
Alcohol Use — Adult beverages naturally dry out your mouth due to their alcohol content. Alcohol is a naturally drying product. Since most of us tend to sip on our drinks over dinner, time spent with friends, or simply unwinding after work, the alcohol is able to have a longer contact time with the soft tissues inside of our mouths. You may notice that on days you drink, you wake up with more aggressive dry mouth (and morning breath) than the ones where you don’t.
Over the Counter Mouthwash — Not all mouth rinse solutions are created the same. Many of them contain alcohol for its antimicrobial qualities and how it preserves the solution for longer shelf life. But have you ever noticed your mouth feeling too dry after rinsing with your favorite mouthwash? Check the label. Does it contain alcohol? Try switching to another rinse that doesn’t.
Illicit Drugs — Recreational drugs — especially meth — can lead to serious dry mouth symptoms as well as tooth decay. If you’ve ever heard the term “meth mouth” used, it’s an extremely aggressive condition that’s the result of xerostomia and increased sugar intake. The result is a ferocious onset of decay across the entire mouth. Since there’s a lack of saliva flow, the decay quickly spreads from tooth to tooth. Unfortunately, many of these individuals lack access to oral care or are too embarrassed to reach out for dental therapy. Tooth loss may be inevitable.
How to Get Help for Dry Mouth
If you’re taking medications that cause dry mouth, speak with your physician before discontinuing your prescribed dose. There may be alternative prescriptions or over-the-counter medications that you can take instead.
Otherwise, you’ll want to be proactive about keeping your mouth lubricated and moist throughout the day. The more hydration your teeth and gums get, the less likely you are to experience severe symptoms of xerostomia, such as rampant tooth decay.
Here are some important things to do (and products to try) to combat dry mouth:
- Sip on water frequently throughout the day. Opt for tap water (instead of bottled) as it contains regulated fluoride levels.
- Chew or suck on gums/mints that contain Xylitol. Xylitol combats dental plaque and having something in your mouth will stimulate your salivary glands to produce saliva.
- Rinse your mouth after eating and drinking anything other than water.
- Purchase dry mouth products such as moisturizing mouth rinse and toothpaste from the store. Use them as directed.
- Avoid alcohol, caffeine, tobacco products, or mouth rinse that contains alcohol as part of the solution.
- Ask our Raleigh dentists for a fluoride prescription to use at home. Professional fluoride is more effective at combatting tooth decay and helps remineralize weak areas of enamel.
Dry Mouth? Schedule an Exam Today
Don’t ignore your dry mouth symptoms. Book an exam at Raleigh Dental Arts for a thorough exam and xerostomia consultation. We’ll help you develop a home care plan that protects your teeth and gums before complications like decay or bad breath become chronic problems.