If you’ve ever dealt with chronic dry mouth, then you know how distracting and uncomfortable the condition can be.
Also known as xerostomia, dry mouth arises when the mouth’s saliva glands don’t produce adequate amounts of saliva. This may result from smoking, dehydration, depression or anxiety, certain medications, cancer therapy, or autoimmune disorders, among other potential causes.
No matter the cause of dry mouth, the consequences are discomfort and a heightened risk of tooth decay and gum disease. That’s because saliva plays an important role in oral health, from cleaning the mouth to helping protect teeth from decay. Without adequate saliva production, you’re more likely to experience difficulty chewing and swallowing, bad breath, dry or cracked lips, cavities, and/or infections of the tongue, cheeks, or gums.
Luckily, a variety of simple strategies may provide some relief from dry mouth. If your mouth feels like a cotton ball, give these tips a try.
Drinking water throughout the day will help ensure your mouth and other bodily tissues stay moist. Water also helps mimic the role of saliva in the mouth by loosening up mucus and other substances that might otherwise stick around in your oral cavity.
Alcohol can be very drying, so reducing your use of products that contain alcohol can help ensure you aren’t exacerbating dry mouth symptoms. Try to limit your consumption of alcoholic beverages, and opt for alcohol-free mouthwashes. Bonus points for using a mouthwash that’s designed specifically for dry mouth.
Smoking cigarettes is a notorious contributor to dry mouth. Ditching the butts is a great way to reduce your risk of developing this condition and avoid exacerbating existing dry mouth symptoms.
This will add moisture to the air, which can help prevent your bodily tissues from drying out. It’s especially useful to run the humidifier in the winter (when the air is drier) and at night (when you’re most likely to be spending a lot of time indoors).
Over-the-counter (OTC) antihistamines and decongestants may exacerbate an already dry mouth, so it’s a good idea to avoid these products whenever possible.
Breathing through your mouth can cause your mouth to become even drier, so it’s helpful to train yourself to breathe through your nose. Every time you catch yourself breathing through your mouth, switch to nose breathing. It may take a while to break the habit of mouth breathing, but the effort will be well worth it.
Your diet can have a big impact on the severity of your dry mouth symptoms. To ensure the foods you eat are helping to mitigate your symptoms (and not exacerbating them), give the following habits a try:
Avoid caffeine whenever possible, as it can dry out the mouth
As noted above, avoid alcoholic beverages whenever possible
Avoid acidic foods and beverages, such as fruit juice or tomato sauce
Limit your consumption of salty and/or dry foods such as crackers, dry breads, and toast
Reduce your consumption of spicy foods, as these can provoke pain when your mouth is dry
Embrace soft, moist foods and consider moistening your food with broths, creams, sauces, and so on
In addition to these strategies, it’s important to commit to a proper oral health care routine, because poor oral hygiene can exacerbate your symptoms. It’s also a good idea to consult your dentist about your dry mouth. In some cases, they may prescribe a special gel or rinse that will help keep your mouth more moist. They’ll also help you figure out why you have dry mouth in the first place, which will give you the best chance of identifying the most effective treatment plan for you.