Over Thanksgiving, you might have done quite a lot of talking, smiling for photos and eating high-sodium foods.
It’s the holidays, after all!
As a result, you might have felt like your mouth was drier than normal. Maybe you felt excessively thirsty, or like your lips and tongue were extra dry. Smiling in all those photos was hard…and eating was harder.
While there is a possibility that this feeling came from simple dietary choices or dehydration, those who suffer from chronic dry mouth experience these symptoms regularly. Unfortunately, the symptoms are more than just a nuisance—they can lead to significant oral health issues if left unaddressed. If you read this and are wondering if your own dry mouth the last two weeks was a result of meal choices or something more serious, keep reading to learn more about what causes chronic dry mouth along with helpful tips to make the holidays go down easier!
Causes of dry mouth
The average adult produces over a quart and a half of saliva every day. When production is thrown off, patients experience a dry, gritty or sticky feeling in their mouths.
Saliva is an important component of your body’s ecosystem. Comprised of water, mucous, proteins, minerals and enzymes, it does much more than wet your whistle! Saliva helps prevent tooth decay and gum disease, and even breaks down foods as part of the digestive process. It’s pretty obvious, then, why a lack of saliva could lead to serious health complications if left unchecked.
Dry mouth can result from internal physiological and external environmental factors, and health professionals stress that it’s never solely a side effect of aging. The onset of dry mouth can be slow, too, so patients and caregivers commonly write it off.
Many times, dry mouth starts as a side-effect of a medication. According to the Surgeon General’s Report on Oral Health in America, more than 400 over-the-counter and prescription medications can contribute to or exacerbate dry mouth, including antihistamines (for allergy or asthma), anti-hypertensive medications, decongestants, pain medications, diuretics, muscle relaxants, and antidepressants.
In addition to medications, other causes such as infection and hormonal changes can also spur that dry, sticky feeling in your mouth.
Finally, dry mouth can also be a symptom of something much more serious like anemia, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease or autoimmune disorders. Sjögren’s Syndrome, an auto-immune disease where white blood cells attack the glands that produce saliva and tears, is especially common among older people. About 4 million Americans suffer from the illness (90% are women).
Quick at-home remedies for dry mouth
If you are suffering from dry mouth, it’s important to visit your dentist for an official diagnosis and to begin a treatment plan. At Josey Lane Dentistry, we walk you through your options and let you know if we feel there’s reason to visit your general practitioner.
If dry mouth is bothering you while you’re away from Carrollton over the holidays, we do have some at-home remedies that can get you by until you can come in for an appointment.
- First, consider how much water you’ve had in a day. Dry mouth can occur as a result of dehydration. Sip water throughout the day trying to reach about three liters total per day. Increasing your water intake will help wash away food particles that your lack of saliva is causing to linger around your mouth.
- Next, consider sucking on sugar free candies or popping a piece of sugar free gum to stimulate saliva production. This increase will temporarily ease your dry mouth symptoms. Just be sure to look for sugar-free gums that have earned the ADA Seal of Acceptance, which promises the gum holds true to its label.
- Finally, take a look at certain lifestyle choices like alcohol and tobacco use. Smoking can cause or exacerbate dry mouth. Similarly, if you drink alcohol, its natural diuretic nature means that it is literally removing water from your blood. Heavier drinkers spend an increased amount of time in a dehydrated state, which raises their risk of developing side effects from dehydration, including dry mouth. If you are experiencing dry mouth symptoms over the holidays, try dialing back on alcoholic drinks and replace them with water.
Prolonged dry mouth can cause serious oral health issues, so it’s important seek dental care if you notice you are suffering its effects.