A dry mouth is a common condition and is rarely caused by anything serious, but in some cases it could be a sign of an underlying health problem.
It is often caused by dehydration, which means the body does dot have enough fluid to produce saliva, or it could be due to breathing through your mouth at night.
Anxiety and nervousness can also cause a dry mouth, as can radiotherapy or chemotherapy cancer treatment.
If you suffer from a dry mouth it can lead to several other health problems, including dry lips, bad breath, altered sense of taste, mouth infections, tooth decay and gum disease, as well as difficulty speaking, eating or swallowing.
The condition can be relieved with simple remedies, such as drinking plenty of cold water or chewing on sugar-free gum or sweets, but if symptoms are persistent, it may be a sign of a more serious issue.
What health problems are linked to a dry mouth?
A dry mouth that does not go away may be a sign that something is not right elsewhere in the body.
The NHS warns that it may be caused by a more serious condition, including:
- diabetes - a lifelong condition that causes blood sugar level to become too high
- Sjögren’s syndrome - a condition where the immune system attacks and damages the salivary glands
Dr Azad Eyrumlu, of leading private dental firm Banning Dental Group, also warns that it could also be a sign of:
- Alzeheimer’s disease
Speaking to the Mirror, he said: “A dry mouth can be a sign something’s not right elsewhere. This can manifest itself with symptoms such as a sticky feeling in the mouth, a dry or sore throat, difficulty chewing or swallowing or even bad breath.
“Certain health conditions such as a stroke, diabetes or Alzheimer’s disease can show themselves in this way, while these symptoms can also be an indicator of an autoimmune disorder such as HIV or Sjogren’s syndrome.
“When you visit a dentist, we don’t just look out for your oral health. We are trained in how to spot certain wider problems with your general health, too.
“It’s vital to keep a close eye on your own health and if you do notice persistent symptoms of a dry mouth then you must highlight this with your GP.”
How can I relieve dry mouth symptoms?
Your doctor or dentist should be able to determine what is causing your dry mouth and can recommend treatments accordingly. If medication is suspected as the cause, for example, it may be advised that you try an alternative or that your dose is reduced.
Other simple remedies which can help to keep your mouth moist include:
- increasing your fluid intake - take regular sips of cold water or unsweetened drinks during the day and keep some water by your bed at night
- suck on ice cubes or ice lollies
- chew sugar-free gum or suck on sugar-free sweets
- brush your teeth twice a day and use alcohol-free mouthwash – you are more likely to get tooth decay if you have a dry mouth
- avoid alcohol, caffeine and smoking as these can all make a dry mouth worse