Everyone gets a dry mouth from time to time. But if your mouth always feels pasty and sticky, it’s important to find and eliminate the cause.
Dry mouth is more than just an annoyance
Dry mouth results from a lack of saliva. Saliva is important because it…
- helps you chew, swallow, and digest food;
- prevents mouth infections by controlling the amount of bacteria
- facilitates speech.
The main culprit? Medicines!
While certain diseases or medical treatments can cause abnormal dryness of the mouth, e.g. Sjogren’s syndrome, radiotherapy treatments to the head and neck, in most cases, medications are to blame. Dry mouth is an adverse side effect of many over-the-counter and prescription drugs.
Although aging is not in itself a direct cause of dry mouth, older adults are more at risk of chronic disease and are therefore more likely to take medicine that causes dryness of the mouth.
If you suspect your dry mouth is the result of a medication you’re taking, discuss it with your pharmacist. They can tell you whether it is a known side effect of your medication and will propose a solution.
Tips for relieving dry mouth
While it may not be possible to eliminate the cause of dry mouth, there are a few steps you can take to keep your mouth properly hydrated:
- Drink on a regular basis (ideally water); avoid coffee and sweetened or acidic beverages
- Suck on hard candies or chew gum (opt for sugar-free products)
- Suck on ice chips
- Avoid smoking or vaping
- Use a humidifier at night when humidity levels in your home drop, especially in winter
- Avoid salty or very spicy foods
- Use a saliva substitute (sold in pharmacies)
It is also important to take good care of your teeth, because dry mouth increases the risk of cavities and other infections of the mouth.
There are medications that help increase saliva production. They are used mainly when dry mouth is caused by a disease, such as Sjogren’s syndrome.
If you have questions about dry mouth, ask your pharmacist.