Dry Mouth Explained

Causes of Dry Mouth

Dry mouth can be caused by many things, but it can largely be broken into the following categories:

  • Medications
  • Cancer Treatment
  • Disease
  • Tobacco Use

By examining each of these possibilities closer, you and your doctor may be able to pinpoint the exact cause of your problem.

Medications: More than 400 medications produce the side effect of reduced saliva production [source: DeVizo]. The types of drugs which typically cause dry mouth include high-blood pressure medicines, anti-anxiety and cold medicine. Incontinence and diarrhea medications, muscle relaxants and drugs for the treatment of Parkinson's can also lead to dry mouth [source: Mayo Clinic].

Cancer Treatment: Radiation can harm glands which create saliva. Chemotherapy can also change the consistency of your saliva -- the amount of saliva may not change but you'll still have "cotton mouth" [sources: NIDCR; Mayo Clinic].

Disease: Sjorgen's Syndrome is closely associated with dry mouth. Approximately 4 million people in the United States alone suffer from the autoimmune disease which affects glands that produce moisture [source: Sjogren's Syndrome Foundation]. Other diseases which can cause dry mouth include HIV/AIDS, Parkinson's and diabetes [source: Mayo Clinic].

Tobacco Use: It's well-documented that smoking cigarettes or chewing tobacco can lead to premature aging like wrinkling. Naturally, the effects of tobacco on the mouth are no different. Tobacco products reduce moisture leading to dry mouth [source: NIDCR].

While the above categories represent the majority of dry mouth causes, there are others. Saliva is secreted at the direction of the brain and nervous system. For that reason, any damage to the nervous system can also result in dry mouth because the salivary glands are not getting the correct signals. A head or neck injury is an example of a relatively rare, though plausible, cause of dry mouth [source: NIDCR].

Once you've been able to determine the cause of dry mouth, you can explore the remedies and treatments available.

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