Dry Mouth Driving You Crazy?

Some tips and tricks to help:

What is dry mouth? Most people describe dry mouth as a dryness or “cotton ball” sensation in the mouth that might accompany saliva that seems thick and stringy, bad breath, dry or sore throat, or difficulty with swallowing, chewing, or speaking.

It’s common, too. Around 10% of the general population and 25% of older adults report uncomfortable symptoms of dry mouth. [1]

What keeps the mouth nice and moist? Salivary glands. If there is an issue with these glands, dry mouth can develop. What do the salivary glands do, and what are they?

The salivary glands are located around the mouth and throat. These glands make saliva which is pumped into the mouth along tiny channels called salivary ducts. The salivary glands include:

  • Parotid – located in the cheek between the front of the ear and the last tooth.
  • Submandibular – located beneath the tongue on both sides of the jaw (mandible).
  • Sublingual – located in the floor of the mouth.
  • Minor salivary glands – found in various locations around the mouth, including the inner cheeks and throat. [1]

If you imagine sucking on a sour lemon, your mouth might immediately pucker up and fill with saliva because of something called the Reticular Activating System (RAS), which controls the amount of saliva you produce in response to food. Imagining this before eating can sometimes help people with dry mouth eat and swallow more comfortably.

Not only is saliva important for eating, it’s essential for keeping your teeth clean as well as your mouth as your oral microbiome needs saliva to be able to function properly. It also acts as a cleanser that neutralizes harmful plaque acids, and that’s partially why twice daily brushing is so important, as brushing your teeth temporarily increases saliva production in your mouth.

What Causes Dry Mouth?

Dry mouth can be caused as a result of old age, or as a side effect of medication

(especially heart, blood pressure, anxiety, antihistamine and depression medications). Chewing tobacco, drinking, and smoking can also contribute. It can also be caused by disorders such as Sjogren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disorder that attacks the glands that make tears and saliva. This can cause a dry mouth and dry eyes.

How Can I Help Dry Mouth?

It’s important to help dry mouth as it can cause a number of problems in the mouth including, but not limited to, tooth decay, plaque formation, and gum disease. [2]

1. Stay Hydrated:

Sip on water throughout the day and make sure you’re drinking at least 8-12 cups of water daily. Keep a water bottle beside you at all times with measurements to keep track of how much you’re drinking.

2. Chew gum:

Chewing sugarless gum with xylitol can be helpful to increase saliva production in the mouth. Chew some gum before supper if you need to help stimulate your salivary glands to make eating more enjoyable.

3. Don’t eat dry food:

Or moisten dry foods with broths, sauces, butter, or creams to help soften your food and make it more easier to chew and swallow.

4. Stop smoking:

Smoking can be dehydrating and worsen dry mouth symptoms.

5. Avoid breathing through your mouth:

Breathing through your mouth rather than your nose can make dry mouth worse and contribute to other oral health problems.

6. Try an alcohol-free mouthwash containing xylitol:

Rinsing your mouth with a mouthwash made for dry mouth up to 5 times a day can help by soothing and lubricating your oral tissues. Try to find an alcohol-free formula as alcohol can be drying and dehydrating.

Dry mouth can be an uncomfortable condition, but it doesn’t have to be forever. Talk to the dentists at Simpli Dental if you are experiencing symptoms, and they can help you find a treatment plan that best suits you!



[1] Better Health Channel

[2] Mayo Clinic