Dry Mouth at Night

What is Dry Mouth? What Does it Feel Like?

Most people can agree that when they wake up, they have the feeling of a dry mouth (xerostomia). It occurs when there is not enough saliva to coat the oral tissues, leaving people susceptible to bad breath, plaque build-up, and mouth sores. 

While dry mouth is common, its root cause can potentially damage your oral health. 

An adequate amount of saliva is not only beneficial for oral health; it is also necessary for your entire well-being. Saliva is important because it contains antimicrobial properties, assists with eating and speaking, and protects the soft tissues. 

The most commonly reported feeling of dry mouth is feeling a dry or sore throat accompanied by bad breath. It is uncomfortable, but typically can be resolved with a glass of water, brushing the teeth and tongue, or using a non-alcoholic mouth rinse. 

What Causes Dry Mouth at Night?

There are numerous causes of dry mouth that may help your dental practitioner figure out how to help treat the unpleasant condition. 

Dry mouth may be caused by:

  • The salivary glands produce less saliva as you age
  • Not drinking enough water can cause you to become dehydrated, which can affect your mouth and entire body
  • Autoimmune diseases like Sjogren's disease are linked to dry mouth, dry eyes, and joint pain
  • High blood sugar levels (diabetes)
  • Stress and/or anxiety
  • Open mouth breathing because of tongue ties or a narrow palate
  • Medications like antidepressants and antihistamines
  • Cancer treatment like radiation that damages the salivary glands
  • Recreational drug use
  • Alcohol and tobacco habits 

Accompanying Symptoms of Dry Mouth

Dry mouth is not typically a healthy feeling because it feels just as the name describes. When a person’s mouth is overly dry, it affects how they eat and speak. 

Figuring out the original cause may help with treatment, but commonly reported symptoms of dry mouth include:

  • Dry, uncomfortable throat
  • Bad breath (halitosis)
  • Mouth sores 
  • Fungal infections
  • Dried lips
  • Grooved tongue
  • Stringy and dried saliva
  • Taste changes
  • Difficulty speaking or eating

What are the Oral Health Effects of Dry Mouth at Night?

Saliva has an important role in the body and sometimes does not get the credit it deserves. 

Without saliva, the digestive process cannot start and the body cannot neutralize harmful bacteria that food and bacteria produce. Inadequate saliva production also weakens the ability of teeth to remineralize and fight tooth decay. 

The American Dental Association reports that saliva is a primary, natural defense against harmful pathogens. Without it, our bodies are more susceptible to infection and oral health problems. 

Common oral health issues that can arise with dry mouth include:

  • Tooth decay
  • Bad breath
  • Fungal infections like thrush
  • Plaque buildup, leading to gum disease 
  • Reduced success of dental prosthetics like implants, crowns, and bridges 
  • Dietary and digestive problems, leading to overall health problems
  • Burning mouth syndrome

When to See a Doctor for Dry Mouth

Dry mouth can be more than just an uncomfortable symptom. You may have an underlying cause or medical condition that can be harmful to your overall health. 

If you feel like your mouth is chronically dry, talk with your dentist to see if bloodwork is necessary. Or, you can visit your primary care physician to rule out conditions like diabetes or Sjogren’s syndrome. 

Treatment Options for Dry Mouth at Night

Here are some common treatments for dry mouth: 

Professional Treatment Options 

You should always speak with a dental professional before using any medications or over-the-counter products.

Some dentists recommend using an affordable, over-the-counter toothpaste or mouthwash made by Biotene. Biotene provides relief for those with dry mouth and helps moisturize your oral cavity. Products come in all forms including a paste, lozenge, mouthwash, and spray. 

If you are prone to tooth decay because of dry mouth, your dentist may prescribe fluoride trays to help prevent the demineralization of teeth.

​​There are certain medications that are known to cause dry mouth like blood pressure medications. You should speak with your physician about changing your dosage or considering losing weight. This may help with weaning you off of blood pressure medication if it improves. 

Other options include prescription saliva stimulants like Evoxac (an FDA-approved treatment for dry mouth). This medication can also help treat Sjogren’s syndrome, which is linked to dry skin, dry eyes, and dry mouth. 

Home Remedies & Natural Options

It is always worth a try to see if simple, affordable treatment at home can help resolve dry mouth. 

Some safe home remedies to combat dry mouth are drinking water and keeping it by your bedside. This way you can either set a timer or if you wake up, it will help lubricate your mouth. 

If you are a mouth breather, consider asking your dentist or orthodontist if there is an underlying bite problem contributing to your mouth breathing. 

If not, your primary care physician or ENT can evaluate if you have a tongue tie and require treatment like a frenectomy to help you breathe nasally. 

A simple trick is also to chew sugar-free gum that promotes saliva production. A great brand is Epic Gum because it contains xylitol, which is beneficial for your oral health and doesn’t contain harmful artificial sweeteners. 

Use a humidifier at night to keep the air moist and prevent the room from becoming too dry. It is also beneficial for your sinuses and allergies. 

Tips for Preventing Dry Mouth at Night 

You can’t always prevent dry mouth, but you can do your best to help avoid the condition if possible. 

Try to avoid products like tobacco and alcohol, which can be drying. This even includes mouthrinse since many contain alcohol. Instead, opt for an alcohol-free mouthrinse that contains fluoride to help protect your teeth from decay.

Limit the use of over-the-counter medications like antihistamines, which have significant drying properties. You should always carry water with you, regardless if you require medication to keep your mouth and soft tissues lubricated. 

Attend routine dental visits and maintain good oral care habits like brushing and flossing regularly. Use an ADA-approved fluoride toothpaste to prevent tooth decay. 

If you are a mouth breather, you may be a good candidate for myofunctional therapy. Myofunctional therapy trains you to breathe nasally and re-trains your tongue by sitting in the correct position so you can sleep and breathe more comfortably. 

Your dentist may also make you a night-time appliance to help with breathing and limit the amount of dry mouth you experience. 

Many people experience dry mouth at night, so always remember to keep ice chips or water next to your bed to soothe any symptoms.

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