Posted by Dr. Julie Boudreault On 12-06-2019
Do you find it difficult to talk because your mouth is so dry? Do you wake in the middle of the night with a dry, sore throat? Do you need water as soon as you wake up in the morning? Do you find you have bad breath even though you are brushing, flossing, and using mouth wash every day? If you answered yes to any of these questions you might be one of the millions of people that are waking up with dry mouth every day.
Not only does dry mouth get you up out of bed in search of a glass of water at night, but it also comes with some risks. Although dryness might seem harmless, it can actually lead to a number of issues including an increased risk of tooth decay and gum disease. Also known as xerostomia, the lack of saliva in your mouth is not normal. There are a number of causes and risks associated with the bacteria left in your mouth when you are not producing the proper amount of saliva. Here is everything you should know about dry mouth and how to stop it while you sleep.
What is dry mouth?
Xerostomia — or the much easier to pronounce term dry mouth — is an actual health condition. It affects the salivary glands in your mouth so that you are unable to produce the saliva required to keep your mouth wet. A wet mouth is very important as it neutralizes the acids that are produced by bacteria. Saliva helps limit bacteria by washing away food particles so bacterial growth is not allowed to run rampant in your mouth and throat.
Why do you need saliva?
Saliva helps prevent tooth decay, enhances your ability to taste, and also allows you to chew and swallow your food more easily, which in turn aids in digestion. When you don’t have enough saliva, it is more than just a nuisance. It affects the health of your teeth and gums, your appetite, and also interferes with your ability to enjoy food.
Without enough saliva, the build-up of bacteria can lead to tooth decay, infections and tooth loss. Saliva production is also necessary to help keep your breath fresh. Bacteria and particles of food trapped in your mouth can lead to bad breath.
Sleep-Related Dry Mouth
Sleep-related xerostomia is noticeable when you have either a dry mouth, dry sore throat or both when you wake up. In fact, it is often the need for water that can cause you to wake during the night.
As much as 23 percent of Canadians suffer from sleep-related dry mouth. Although we tend to produce more saliva when awake, saliva production should continue during sleep albeit it at a diminished level. It is believed a slowdown of saliva production during sleep is related to our circadian rhythm. Salivary secretion and swallowing involve rhythmic masticatory muscle activity that takes place as we sleep. During sleep, saliva provides the necessary lubricants needed to protect your oral tissue as well as the health of your esophagus.
Symptoms of Dry Mouth
Common symptoms of dry mouth include:
- A sticky feeling in your mouth
- Thick saliva
- Stringy saliva
- Bad breath
- Difficulty chewing, speaking and swallowing
- Dry or sore throat
- Dry tongue
- Tongue grooves
- Unpleasant taste or changes to the taste of food
- A bad taste in your mouth
- Increased discomfort when wearing dentures
Do you have dry mouth?
You can ask yourself a few questions to determine if you have dry mouth:
- Are you taking more than two medications a day?
- Do you feel your mouth is dry during the day despite drinking fluids?
- Do you find you are constantly eating or drinking to avoid the discomfort of a dry mouth?
- Do you awaken at night feeling thirsty or needing water?
- Does your mouth become dry when you are speaking?
If you answer yes to any or all of these questions, chances are you are suffering from dry mouth.
Common Causes of Dry Mouth
Although dry mouth can be due to xerostomia, this is uncommon. Instead, it is more likely caused by one of the following:
- Antidepressants, high blood pressure medications, antihistamines, decongestants, muscle relaxants, beta-blockers, anti-hypertensives, diuretics and pain medications
- Damage to the neck or head due to radiation treatment, surgery or injury
- Nerve damage in the head and neck
- Diabetes, stroke, thrush, Alzheimer's disease, autoimmune diseases
- Snoring and breathing with your mouth open
- Tobacco, alcohol, and recreational drug use such as methamphetamine and marijuana
Complications of Dry Mouth
If left untreated, dry mouth can lead to the following complications:
- Increased plaque, tooth decay and gum disease
- Mouth sores
- Yeast infection of the mouth
- Sores in or around the mouth
- Split skin at the corners of the mouth
- Cracked lips
- Poor nutrition due to difficulty chewing and swallowing
How to Stop Dry Mouth at Night
Living with dry mouth is not fun. It is uncomfortable and can also make you self-conscious due to bad breath. As soon as you start feeling dry mouth either when you wake up, or throughout the day, it is important to take steps that will return moisture. This will help you avoid the risks associated with dry mouth.
The good news is there are a number of solutions that can help you stop dry mouth at night including:
- Remain hydrated throughout the day by drinking plenty of water
- Use a fluoride toothpaste
- Use dry mouth oral rinse
- Use dry mouth moisturizing spray
- Avoid spicy and acidic foods before bed
- Quit smoking
- Limit alcohol intake
- Avoid recreational drug use
- Speak to your pharmacist about regular prescription and over the counter medications you take to learn more about side effects and potential changes to medications if dry mouth persists
If dry mouth persists you can speak to our office. We can identify the cause and recommend changes to your oral health regime to keep you more comfortable.
For more information about chronic dry mouth when sleeping, call Milltown Dental at 905-878-8528 or contact us here.