Dry Mouth: Causes and Effects

on November 20, 2013

Dry mouth, also known as xerostomia, can be hazardous to your oral health. This week we will be providing an overview of the causes and effects of dry mouth. Next week we will discuss some of the treatment options that are available to you.

What is it?

Dry mouth occurs when your saliva production decreases. Xerostomia affects about 10% of the population and is more commonly found in women. The decrease in saliva production may be temporary or more prolonged. In either case, doing nothing for your dry mouth will have lasting effects on your oral health. Additionally, as you will find out, dry mouth can significantly affect the quality of your life.


There are many different causes of dry mouth. One of the largest causes of dry mouth is medications. Among the medications that cause dry mouth you will find beta blockers, antidepressants, and allergy medicines. The largest natural cause of dry mouth is aging. Often elderly people suffer from disorders which cause their saliva glands to decrease production. Other causes of dry mouth include smoking, mouth breathing, radiation treatments, and autoimmune disorders – such as Sjogren’s Syndrome.


Dry mouth can have some very serious results, because normally your saliva is a healing agent for your mouth. Saliva keeps the tissues in your mouth moist, helps maintain a neutral pH, and remineralizes your tooth enamel. Without saliva, the bacteria that cause periodontal disease, decay, and halitosis are able to run rampant. As a result, plaque and tartar formation increases; instances of decay increase; and bad breath occurs. Additionally, without your saliva to raise the pH of your mouth, your teeth become more susceptible to erosion.

There are also lifestyle effects that occur from dry mouth. It is more difficult to chew and swallow and your gums may become irritated. Some patients report that it becomes more difficult for them to sleep.

Dry mouth can be a debilitating condition, but it doesn’t have to be. Once you discover what is causing your dry mouth, you will be better able to treat its symptoms. Next week we will discuss some of the treatment options for dry mouth. In the meantime, contact our Evanston dental office and set up an appointment to learn more about how to help treat your dry mouth.

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