6 tips to relieve dry mouth symptoms

Dry mouth, also called xerostomia, is a condition that increases with age and affects about 30% of people 65 and older, according to the Journal of the Canadian Dental Association (JCDA). It refers to a lowering of the amount and quality of saliva in the mouth.

Dry mouth is an important problem to address because it can put you at greater risk for cavities and mouth infections, lead to pain and discomfort, and make it harder to chew and swallow, says Dental Hygiene Canada. People who produce too little saliva are also more susceptible to gum disease and tooth loss, and may have problems with eating, speaking, wearing dentures and bad breath, says the JCDA. These problems can worsen an older adult’s quality of life and overall health by affecting their eating habits, nutrition and social life.

What causes dry mouth?

Fortunately, there are many things you can do to manage and treat dry mouth to help relieve or eliminate the symptoms. A key first step is to understand and identify possible causes with the help of your dentist, family doctor, or another healthcare professional.

Some common causes of dry mouth are medication side effects, radiation and chemotherapy, dehydration, diseases such as diabetes, salivary gland dysfunction and smoking. Medications that may cause dry mouth include blood pressure medication, anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications, decongestants and antihistamines, pain relievers and sedatives, Parkinson’s disease medications, and certain medications delivered through inhalers, according to Dental Hygiene Canada.

Symptoms of dry mouth, says the Canadian Cancer Society, may include:

  • sticky, dry feeling in the mouth
  • thick, stringy saliva
  • burning feeling in the mouth
  • dry, cracked lips and tongue
  • increased thirst
  • mouth sores or infections.

Tips to help manage dry mouth

1) Stay hydrated. Sip water frequently.

2)  Moisten your mouth. Your healthcare team may recommend a saliva substitute, or artificial saliva products that can include mouth rinses, sprays or gels.

3) Keep lips moist. Use a water-based lip balm.

4) Avoid spicy or salty foods. Reduce your caffeine intake since it also causes your mouth to dry.

5) Moisten the air. Use a humidifier to increase humidity in your bedroom.

6) Consider adjusting medications. Medications are the most common cause of dry mouth, according to the JCDA. The source suggests talking with your doctor or pharmacist about the possibility of substituting a similar medication associated with less dry-mouth symptoms for one known to cause dry-mouth symptoms.