Xerostomia is a condition in which the mouth is perpetually dry. About 22% of people experience this uncomfortable sensation that can drastically impact a person's life. Dry mouth at night can be extremely disruptive to sleep and cause individual to wake up and grab a glass of water or find some other way to lubricate their mouths. Continue reading to learn more about the causes, and how to prevent dry mouth at night to get better sleep.
What is dry mouth?
Dry mouth is the subjective sensation of your mouth feeling dry, as if there is no saliva or lubrication. This condition can overlap with hyposalivation, but is different because hyposalivation is an inability of the salivary glands to make saliva. Dry-mouth is a self-reported feeling whereas hyposalivation is a condition measured objectively by the inability to produce saliva.
The main symptom of xerostomia is the sensation of a dry mouth. Doctors can determine if someone has dry mouth by asking them questions about how their mouth feels throughout the day. There is a list of symptoms, the xerostomia inventory, that medical professionals use to determine the extent of dry mouth.
Common questions include:
- How dry does your mouth feel while eating?
- How difficult is it to eat dry foods?
- How dry do your lips feel?
- How dry does your mouth feel at night or on awakening?
- How thirsty do you feel at night?
There are also other symptoms that can assist in the diagnosis of xerostomia. Any of the follow symptoms are considered signs of dry mouth, as determined by the American Dental Association:
- Bad breath
- Burning sensation or sores in the mouth
- Difficulty chewing, swallowing, or speaking
- Change in taste or difficulty tolerating spicy, salty or sour flavors
- Dry and cracked lips
- Rough tongue
- Mouth infections
- Trouble keeping dentures in the mouth
Chronic dry mouth can contribute to tooth decay, plaque, eroded enamel, or tooth demineralization in the form of white spots, and sensitive teeth or inflamed gums.
Causes and risk factors
By identifying causes and risk factors for dry mouth, you may be able to pinpoint areas to treat in order to improve your dry mouth.
One issue may be dehydration. If you have to wake up in the middle of the night to drink water, that that may be the cause of your dry mouth. Dehydration occurs when you do not drink enough water during the day, on top of the process of your body expelling it through urine, sweat, and other means.
Another cause of dry mouth is breathing through your mouth. It is physiologically important to breathe through your nose. Nighttime mouth breathing can result from blocked nasal passages that is associated with sleep-disordered breathing. You should work with a doctor or specialist to ensure that you are able to breathe through your nose instead of your mouth. Aside from a dry mouth, breathing through your nose is important for avoiding infections, properly warming the air through your nose, and other important advantages.
Certain medications can also have dry mouth as a side effect, specifically antihistamines, decongestants, antipsychotics, diuretics, and some asthma medications. The list continues, bu these are commonly used medications, and could easily be the cause of your dry mouth.
Illness are another common cause of dry mouth. It is one of three primary symptoms in Sjögren syndrome, which is an autoimmune disorder. Doctors measure saliva output, and check for abnormalities in the salivary gland when diagnosing Sjogren's syndrome. Other medical conditions include:
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- High blood pressure
- Hepatitis C
Aging is a natural cause of dry mouth as the mouth tends to dry out with age. This could be caused by hormonal changes or the increased use of medications that cause dry mouth. Another natural cause is just being a woman, as studies have found that dry mouth is more common in that sex.
Last, but certainly not least, smoking cigarettes could be a cause of dry mouth as well. Toxins in cigarette smoke lead to a decreased production in saliva, more than non-smokers. This can result in more instances of dry mouth over time.
Best ways to prevent dry mouth
Hydration is an important first step in preventing dry mouth. If you drink plenty of fluids throughout the day, this may alleviate some of the feelings of dry mouth you experience throughout the night. Don't drink fluids too close to bedtime so you don't have to get up throughout the night to urinate, but proper hydration throughout the day should help reduce some of the feelings of dry mouth. Also, keeping a glass of water next to your bed at night may be a quick relief in case your mouth does get dry.
Humidifying the air can also assist with dry mouth, particularly if you use a CPAP and can get a humidifying attachment. This can prevent your bedroom air from becoming too dry.
If you smoke, refrain from smoking. This can increase your salivary production, which can decrease your risk of experiencing dry mouth at night.
Another behavioral intervention is addressing mouth breathing. See a specialist to determine the cause for mouth breathing, and ways to overcome it.
And review your medications for ones that cause dry mouth to see if there is one that needs to be switched out. This may not always be possible, but discuss the issues you're having with your doctor to see if there is an alternative.
There are multiple strategies for treating dry mouth, depending on the cause. If you have ruled out any of the above causes and risk factors, and are still struggling, then the issue may be biological. One treatment you can try is artificial saliva, or saliva substitutes. This may relieve dry mouth in those who do not find relief with other methods. You can take them in the form of lubrics or as a gel or mouthways. There are some times that work better than others, so experiment until you find the one that works best for you.
Medication is another option. Amifostine, a medication used to reduce the side effects of chemotherapy, can reduce dry mouth associated with chemotherapy. This medication may come with some side effects, so it's important to consult your doctor before starting any new medication.
Acupuncture is another, slightly unorthodox, treatment option. Some health professionals believe that it may help by stimulating saliva production. More research is necessary to confirm if this is true or not.
Dry mouth is not traditionally a medical condition that requires you to see a doctor. Many individuals try home remedies that seem to work, or use humidifiers that are available at the local store. However, consider talking toa. physician if home treatments don't solve the issue, dry mouth is affecting your sleep, and is accompanied by other symptoms like dry eyes or enlarged salivary glands.
Especially contact a doctor if dry mouth is impacting your sleep, as this can cause sleep deprivation which is associated with several other consequences. Click the orange button below to take a free online sleep test and work with one of our sleep health professionals.