Dehydration, medications could be to blame for your dry mouth


If your mouth often feels like the Sahara desert, you might be experiencing dry mouth, a condition most commonly caused by dehydration or medications. 

Most of the American public is chronically dehydrated and, given that there are more than 600 prescription medications that cause dry mouth as a side effect, chances are you may experience it at some point. 

Drinking the recommended eight glasses of water a day can help prevent dry mouth and is important in keeping the rest of your body and skin hydrated.

However, many people suffer from a chronic form of dry mouth called xerostomia. There are many causes and it’s often a side effect of medications that a person is taking. These drugs are some of the most commonly prescribed medications in the country, with antidepressants, high blood pressure medications, antihistamines, diuretics, antipsychotics and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications as the most common culprits.  

While dry mouth has significant negative effects, it’s not a reason to stop taking any medications that have been prescribed for you. Your dentist can help you work with your primary care provider to possibly find a drug that has a better side effect profile for you to reduce the lack of saliva production.  

Dry mouth is a significant concern, even beyond the dry, sticky feeling of not having enough saliva.  Saliva serves important functions for us. It bathes the teeth, washing away food particles and bacteria as we eat. The bacteria in the mouth burn sugars in our food, making acid as a byproduct, which dissolves tooth enamel and causes cavities.  Saliva is a buffer, which neutralizes the acid.  Therefore, lack of saliva very often leads to an increase in cavities.

If you think you may have chronic dry mouth, please discuss this with your dentist. It may be beneficial to schedule an appointment for an examination and to talk about the problem. You and your dentist can review your individual situation and develop a personalized plan to help you manage this condition. Your dentist may consult with your primary care provider to look at your overall health as well. 

Dry mouth can get worse with dehydration or any changes in medication. A good first step is always to drink more water. We all get that cotton-mouthed feeling when we have to speak up in front of a group.  That’s normal. But if that dry mouth feeling doesn’t go away, that’s a sign that you should see your dentist and figure out what’s going on and what you can do about it.

Matthew Messina is the clinical director of Ohio State Upper Arlington Dentistry at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center’s Outpatient Care Upper Arlington