Did you know that a healthy mouth is supposed to produce 1-2 liters of saliva every day?
While there’s no easy way to measure how much saliva you swallow throughout the day, it’s easy to notice when your mouth feels drier than normal. According to research, dry mouth affects 1 in 10 people. Although that number might be much higher since so many people don’t even realize they’re struggling with dry mouth.
Are you one of those people?
To help you find out, or to simply help you better understand your current dry mouth, we’re diving into the common questions about the condition. What is dry mouth? What are its long-term health impacts? How can you fix it, naturally?
Let’s find out.
what is dry mouth?
Dry mouth, formally known as xerostomia, occurs when your mouth doesn’t produce enough saliva to stay comfortably wet.
Why is this such an issue?
Saliva plays an extremely important role in maintaining a healthy mouth. It fights cavities, promotes digestion, and maintains balance in your oral microbiome by doing things such as:
- Reducing bacteria (plaque) in your mouth
- Neutralizing the acids produced by the remaining bacteria
- Washing away food and other debris
- Carrying and delivering enzymes that break down your food and start the digestion process
In short, when your mouth doesn’t produce enough saliva, it not only causes a dry, sticky discomfort. It can also wreak havoc on your oral microbiome’s delicate ecosystem.
what are the main causes of dry mouth?
If you’re experiencing dry mouth, odds are it’s due to a combination of factors. Even if there’s more than one cause, understanding them can help guide your treatment plan.
Below you’ll find common lifestyle-related causes.
- tobacco use: tobacco directly dries up the saliva in your mouth while also disturbing the bacteria balance in your mouth
- alcohol consumption: alcohol is a diuretic, which means, as your body processes it, the alcohol strips your body of fluids. Alcohol also completely disrupts the bacteria balance in your mouth....this goes for harsh mouthwashes too.
- stress: if your body doesn’t feel safe, it won’t function optimally. If you experience dry mouth randomly for a few days, it could be stress-related.
- mouth breathing: you might be surprised to find out most people are mouth breathers, especially at night! When you sleep, your saliva production naturally slows down. When you breathe through your mouth, it dries up your saliva even further. If you experience dry mouth in the morning, this is at least one of the reasons.
- dehydration: you might be dehydrated without knowing it. In fact, it’s hard to “diagnose” dehydration until it becomes super serious. As a rule of thumb, if you’re already thirsty, you’re probably dehydrated. Please note that very active people (athletes) and those with diabetes dehydrate more easily.
Below you’ll find medical-related causes.
- cancer treatment: because chemo and radiation kill your cells (good and bad), they can affect the function of your salivary glands....especially if the treatment is targeted at your head and neck.
- prescription drugs: scientists say that there are over 500 prescription drugs....and many more over-the-counter drugs, too....that contribute to dry mouth. These medications range from allergy meds to antidepressants, so be sure to check the “side effects” lists for your medications.
- nerve damage: if you have nerve damage from a head or neck injury, it could be affecting your salivary gland function.
- disease: conditions such as HIV/AIDS, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, stroke, oral thrush (yeast infection), Alzheimer’s, and more can cause dry mouth.
- aging: long-term health problems, new medications, your body’s ability to process these medications, and changes in appetite (and as a result, changes in nutrition) can all lead to dry mouth as you age.
These are all things to keep in mind as you assess your dry mouth now and in the future.
what are the less-obvious symptoms of dry mouth?
In addition to, well, a dry mouth....here are some other common symptoms of dry mouth.
- persistent/frequent bad breath
- thick/stringy saliva
- grooved tongue
- changed sense of taste
- chronically chapped lips
- digestive issues
- difficulty chewing and/or swallowing
- insomnia (connected to mouth breathing)
- mouth sores
- frequent cavities
- sore throat
Especially if these symptoms persist week after week, dry mouth might be a valid concern.
how does dry mouth affect the rest of your health?
A chronically dry mouth can lead to a host of problems, including the symptoms listed above. But we’ll expand on a few major ones here.
- cavities: without enough saliva, your mouth can’t fend off bacteria and the enamel-eroding acids that come with them. This can cause your mouth’s pH to become acidic, allowing bacteria to take over, increasing your risk of cavities, and reducing your mouth’s ability to naturally remineralize your enamel. Even just a few hours of dry mouth can disrupt the bacteria balance in your oral microbiome!
- oral microbiome imbalance: this one is closely related to the issue above, but an imbalance oral microbiome can lead to more than just cavities. It can lead to oral thrush (yeast infections), a grooved tongue, mouth sores, angular cheilitis (cuts in the corner of your mouth), gum disease, bad breath, gut dysbiosis, and more.
- gut issues: because the oral microbiome, and saliva, in particular, are so closely related to digestion and overall gut health, dry mouth can cause serious gut issues. These gut issues can manifest as digestive discomfort, brain fog, inflammation, and more. You can read about this in-depth in our previous article, “your mouth's special role in aiding digestion and taming inflammation.”
These are just a few of the reasons you should never ignore dry mouth. It’s a message from your body that something is off and needs to be addressed!
which people are at a higher risk of developing dry mouth?
Those who experience the following are at a higher risk of developing dry mouth.
- cancer treatment with chemo and/or radiation
- strenuous athletic training
- mouth infections
- daily medications with dry mouth side effects
- rheumatoid arthritis
- other autoimmune diseases
- sleep apnea
- a daily routine that involves tobacco, alcohol, poor nutrition, and not enough water
- genetic conditions
- underlying salivary gland issues
If you encounter any of these conditions, be sure to check out our short and long-term natural remedies for dry mouth below.
how long does dry mouth last? can it be treated fast?
The duration of dry mouth depends on the cause. Start by asking yourself:
- have I experienced chronic dry mouth for years?
- does it only happen when I’m stressed?
- did it start after beginning a new medication?
- has it worsened as I continue to age?
- does it always worsen overnight?
If you identify that it’s linked to an ongoing condition (like the use of daily medication, mouth breathing while you sleep, or simply aging), there’s probably no “quick fix” for the issue. However, we explain some natural remedies for dry mouth below.
how do you fix dry mouth, naturally?
There are many different natural remedies for dry mouth that can work to reduce, relieve, or even eliminate it altogether. We’ve outlined both short and long-term strategies below.
For immediate relief:
- try artificial saliva: it’s important to note that these products do not help your mouth produce more saliva, rather they mimic saliva to provide short-term relief. Biotène gel contains only seven ingredients that work to moisturize your mouth.
- eat ice chips: this can be refreshing throughout the day when your dry mouth feels extremely uncomfortable.
- use xylitol-enriched products: Davids is formulated with xylitol, making it the best dry mouth toothpaste. Xylitol is a natural sweetener that’s scientifically proven to stimulate saliva production while reducing the growth of bad bacteria in your mouth. You can also find chewing gums with xylitol for extra relief.
- use a humidifier: if you live in an area with very low humidity (especially in the winter), a humidifier can help with dry mouth, dry throat, and dry skin.
For ongoing relief and prevention:
- brush regularly with Davids: it’s the best dry mouth toothpaste because it contains glycerin and xylitol (both moisturizing) and avoids irritants such as SLS (more on this below).
- practice nose breathing: mouth taping at night can help you learn to breathe through your nose, open up your nasal passages, reduce teeth grinding, and, of course, reduce dry mouth.
- avoid tobacco and alcohol (even mouthwash): we hate to be the fun police, but avoiding these things is essential to your oral health! Tobacco and alcohol both wreak havoc on your oral and gut microbiomes.
- hydrate: most average adults should be drinking roughly 3-4 liters of water per day. It can be helpful to use one water bottle (specifically, a 1-liter bottle) to actually track how much water you’re drinking throughout the day.
- ask your doctor about changing medications/doses: it never hurts to ask about your options, especially if you’ve confirmed that one of your medications definitely contributes to dry mouth.
- eat a nutrient-dense diet for your oral microbiome: you’ll want to eat a diet full of whole foods, which are rich in natural vitamins, minerals, and water! You can read the specific diet tips from Dr. Anu Isaac, DMD in this previous blog post.
- avoid dry + hard foods: think saltines, bread, dry meats, and also processed foods with high sugar and/or high acid content.
what makes Davids the best dry mouth toothpaste?
First things first, every single ingredient in Davids works with your oral microbiome for optimal freshness, cleanliness, and long-term function.
When it comes to dry mouth, the following ingredients work specifically to tame and balance the bacteria in your mouth, stimulate saliva production, maintain a healthy pH, freshen your breath, strengthen your enamel, and polish your teeth....without any harsh chemicals.
- vegetable glycerin: glycerin is a humectant, which by definition, means it retains and preserves moisture. It works to moisturize your mouth while stimulating your saliva glands to help reduce dry mouth.
- xylitol: this natural sweetener similarly works to moisten your mouth by stimulating your salivary glands to produce more saliva. It also works to control the growth of bad bacteria in your mouth, preventing plaque buildup and, in turn, cavities.
- baking soda: this gentle abrasive neutralizes plaque-forming acids in your mouth, polishing your teeth and reducing bad breath....which is a very common side effect of dry mouth!
- peppermint oils: research shows that peppermint oil not only works to freshen your breath, it actually reduces the bad bacteria in your mouth, too. Our peppermint oils are derived from domestic mint leaves for an unmatched fresh flavor.
- hydroxyapatite: our new Sensitive+Whitening Nano-Hydroxyapatite Toothpaste uses this cutting-edge ingredient to strengthen your enamel from the inside out. Because dry mouth exacerbates the growth of bad bacteria that can damage your enamel, hydroxyapatite is a great addition to promote long-term oral health.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Davids’ ingredients and efficacy. Don’t just take our word for it, try out our premium natural toothpaste for yourself.