Why Does my Mouth Feel Dry?

Having a dry mouth is more than just a nuisance.  Dry mouth can both indicate serious health concerns and cause serious dental concerns.  For these reasons, it is important not to ignore a dry mouth.  Pay attention to it, take steps to overcome, and seek medical and dental attention if it doesn’t improve.

This article outlines the most common causes of dry mouth.


The most common reason people feel that their mouths are dry is simple: dehydration.  This is almost always a temporary problem, and as soon as you rehydrate, the feeling of dryness in your mouth goes away.  Our mouths are supposed to stay continually moisturized by saliva, and your body makes saliva using water.  If your body is dehydrated, then it slows down or stops saliva production, causing the mouth to feel more dry than normal.

Many of the things we eat and drink can cause a noticeable, temporary dehydration.  In moderation, you shouldn’t suffer from dry mouth with these substances, but when you over-consume, you might notice that your mouth is uncomfortably dry the following day.

  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • High sugar food & drinks
  • High sodium (very salty) foods

Prescription Medications

The most common cause of chronic dry mouth that does not improve is prescription medications.  Many medications, including some over-the-counter ones, cause dry mouth as a side effect.  This includes blood pressure pills, antidepressants, and allergy medication.

If your dry mouth is so severe that it is difficult to swallow food and affects your speech, consider talking to your prescribing doctor about it.  Often, with a lower dosage, the side effect will lessen.  Only the doctor who prescribed the medication can change your dosage.  Talk to the doctor about your options.

Autoimmune Disorders

Some people with chronic dry mouth problems suffer from autoimmune disorders, in which the body attacks itself and does not make enough saliva.  This is most prevalent in a disorder called Sjögren’s syndrome, and it is also a symptom of diabetes, celiac disease, and Crohn’s disease.

Patients with these disorders must work hard to remain well hydrated and use additional oral care products to help moisturize the mouth.  We love Xylimelts, which are small patches you can place on the roof of the mouth before bedtime.  They have a slightly sweet flavor that stimulates saliva production throughout the night and prevents your mouth from becoming severely dry while you sleep.  Another great product is dry mouth gel by Biotene.  It more closely mimics saliva than plain water does and helps to lubricate the tissues inside the mouth, preventing cheek biting and frictional sores.

Cancer Treatments

Patients who undergo cancer treatments that include radiation of the head and neck often suffer destruction of the main salivary glands.  This leads to permanent dry mouth and can be very uncomfortable.  If you have undergone radiation to your head and neck region, it is important that you see your dentist for consistent preventive dental care.  Without saliva, the risk for both cavities and gum disease is much higher.

Using the Wrong Oral Care Products

More rare, but possible, is dry mouth as a consequence of using the wrong oral care products.   We know that many people love the burning or tingling feeling that comes from using really strong mouthwash.  However, that burning and tingling means that it is too harsh for the soft tissues inside the mouth.  The strong essential oils and the alcohol they contain actually have a drying effect.

Your mouth may feel fresh and clean at first, but you will notice it drying out relatively quickly.  It is best to only use a mild, alcohol-free mouthwash!

More Questions about Dry Mouth?

Call Timberlake Dental to schedule a consultation with Dr. Chowning.  He can answer any question you have regarding dry mouth and assess your specific situation to find what risk factors are contributing.

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