Do you wake up to a sore throat, excessively bad breath or similar frustrations in the morning? At first, you may think it’s merely the result of allergies or possibly a cold virus trying to take hold, but if it happens more mornings than not, it may be something more. It could be dry mouth.
Here’s what you need to know about this common condition and how to prevent and manage it.
What is dry mouth?
Officially known as xerostomia, dry mouth is a condition in which the salivary glands don’t produce enough saliva to keep the mouth wet. While this may at first glance seem to be a minor annoyance, it can have more serious side effects including:
Cavities – saliva helps to limit bacteria in the mouth by neutralizing acid and removing pieces of food.
Limiting digestion – saliva contains enzymes which begin the digestion process long before food reaches the stomach
Affecting taste – saliva helps you to taste your food, not to mention chew and swallow it.
So what causes dry mouth? There could be several reasons you’re dealing with a dry mouth and, luckily, several ways to help reverse it.
Causes of dry mouth
There are many reasons why you could have xerostomia. Once you’ve identified what may be causing it, you can take steps to prevent or manage it.
Breathing through the mouth – Often, your dentist can find signs of this by looking closely at your gums and tongue during a dental exam. You may also find you wake up with a dry or even sore throat. It could be a temporary cause, such as cold or allergy congestion, or it could be something longer term such as regular snoring, sleep apnea or narrowed nasal passages.
Dehydration – Aim to get approximately one-half ounce of water per pound of body weight each day to stay hydrated and promote saliva production throughout the day and night.
Aging – Experts have found that many people as they age begin to experience dry mouth more frequently due to medication, inadequate nutrition or other factors.
Your unique saliva production – Everyone is different, some producing more saliva than others, and many of us naturally produce less saliva at night.
Tobacco and alcohol use – If you’ve ever had a couple of drinks and found yourself waking up the next morning feeling like you have a mouth full of cotton balls, you know this one to be true. Both tobacco and alcohol consumption can increase dry mouth.
Medication – A common side effect of many medications, including antihistamines, blood pressure medication, antidepressants, and chemotherapy drugs, among others, is dry mouth.
Nerve damage – In some cases of head or neck injuries or surgeries where nerve damage is a result, dry mouth can be a side effect.
Sjogren’s syndrome – This autoimmune disorder causes the immune system to attack both tear glands and salivary glands resulting in dry mouth.
What to do about dry mouth
If you suspect dry mouth, there are several steps you can take to help prevent and manage it:
Stay hydrated by drinking water throughout the day (aim for one-half ounce of water per pound of body weight) and keeping water next to your bed for nighttime dry mouth and to rehydrate upon waking.
Avoid tobacco products and limit alcohol use.
Chew gum or lozenges to increase saliva
Using a humidifier in your bedroom
Talk to your doctor about medications you’re taking that may be causing dry mouth
If dry mouth is causing pain, dental issues or negatively impacting your sleep, it may be time to see your ENT for relief. They will work with you to determine the cause and best next steps to manage your dry mouth.