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What is ‘dry mouth’?

In this article, we illuminate causes and remedies for a non-disease-related dry mouth. In a later article this year we describe a dry mouth as a symptom of illness including autoimmune disorders, diabetes, high blood pressure, HIV, sleep apnoea and COVID-19. Medication-related dry mouth often happens when multiple medications are taken as an unwanted side effect. This will equally be described in a later article.

Experiencing ‘dry mouth’ can be very unpleasant and is frequently common first thing in the morning or during the night. ‘Dry mouth’ refers to the condition where the mouth is particularly dry which causes discomfort, an unwanted odour and a feeling of stickiness in your mouth. In some instances, patients report that saliva is unnaturally thick and stringy.

Dry mouth is not usually serious and does not require medical intervention. If you continue to have a dry mouth for extended periods it may be that you can speak to your dentist or doctor in case medication or diet is causing the issue.

Symptoms of a dry mouth

Dry mouth, is a dryness or lack of saliva in your mouth. This can cause the mouth to feel “sticky” and unpleasant. A lack of saliva may lead to difficulty speaking, swallowing, or chewing and may even feel like a dry or sore throat. It is not uncommon for patients with dry mouth to experience a changed sense of taste and it can additionally sometimes lead to issues wearing dentures.

Dry mouth at night is often very common as you’re not likely to be drinking as much as you would be through the day. Patients who breath through their mouth as they sleep are also more likely to experience dry mouth. In some instances, working with a sleep specialist can help identify and change this behaviour.

Speak to a dental professional today

Our dentists have all the experience, skill and technology required to diagnose and treat dry mouth. Arrange an appointment with our dental team at our central London dental clinic, situated on the prestigious Wimpole Street.

What causes dry mouth?

There are multiple potential factors and cause for non-disease related dry mouth. These include:

  • Dehydration is the largest cause of dry mouth. When you sleep, you are not consuming as much liquid to stay hydrated as you are during the daytime.
  • Mouth breathing can be caused by a blocked nasal passage or by a sleep disorder that can dry your mouth and cause irritation.
  • Certain medications often have the side effect of causing dry mouth. Patients who take multiple medications often report dry mouth as an unwanted side effect. Please consult your doctor if your dry mouth is too intolerable as they can prescribe an alternate medicine.
  • Dry mouth is more common in older adults and it is likely that the older you get, the more likely you will suffer from dry mouth.
  • Smoking can cause dry mouth as nicotine reduces the saliva flow which in turn leads to a dry mouth.

How to treat dry mouth

  • The most effective way to treat dry mouth is to first understand and diagnose the cause. If dry mouth is caused by regular dehydration, then simply drinking more water during the day and before and after bedtime may be enough to help improve your situation.
  • Alternatively, using a humidifier can often help patients that live and/or sleep in an environment with low humidity. Humidifiers add extra moisture to the air and stop the environment from becoming too dry.
  • If you are a smoker, quitting smoking will reduce the probability of dry mouth. Smoking has been proven to reduce the levels of saliva produced by saliva glands.
  • Patients who are diagnosed with ‘mouth breathing’ at night may need to explore options to remove nasal blockages or change sleep behaviors. Speak to a medical professional about your options and they will be able to refer you to a specialist.

Prof Christian Mehl

Written by: Prof Dr Christian Mehl

A certified implantologist and prosthodontics specialist with 20+ years in dentistry, I conduct clinical research, teach at University of Kiel, and contribute to implant system development. Recipient of the Camlog Research Award, I frequently publish and deliver global lectures.

Clinically reviewed by: Dr Raul Costa

When did we last update this page?

Our expert team continually update and research the latest news and techniques in dentistry, as such we regularly update our pages and have these clinically reviewed.

Current Version

July 21st 2023

  • Added “when did we last update this page” and author biography to the page.

Written by: Prof Dr Christian Mehl

Medically reviewed by: Dr Raul Costa

Previous Versions

October 2nd 2022

  • Page redesigned and updated to reflect change in address.

Written by: Prof Dr Christian Mehl

Medically reviewed by: Dr Raul Costa

30th August 2021

  • Original content created.

Written by: Prof Dr Christian Mehl

Medically reviewed by: Dr Raul Costa

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