The Many Causes of Dry Mouth

Dry Mouth


Dry mouth can be caused by something as simple as breathing with your mouth open or something as serious as nerve damage. Here you will learn about additional symptoms, which could help you decide what's causing the problem in your case.


Mild dehydration is the most common cause. Drinking a glass of water should resolve it. While other beverages may taste better or seem to quench your thirst initially, many of them can actually cause a sticky, dry sensation. Caffeinated beverages actually contribute to dehydration.


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Smoking is another common cause. Smoking or chewing tobacco can reduce the production of saliva, which is what normally keeps the tongue and tissues moist.


A number of prescription and over-the-counter medications cause dryness in all of the mucus membranes, including our mouths. Some of the drugs that could be causing your problem include:

  • Antihistamines-cold medicines, allergy medicines, Benadryl, etc.
  • Diuretics-often prescribed for high blood pressure and purchased over the counter to reduce bloating
  • Anti-depressants-nearly all of the popular anti-depressants can cause dry mouth
  • Retinoids-usually prescribed for acne
  • Asthma inhalers-may be steroidal or contain the bronchial dilator albuterol, both cause dryness
  • Anti-diarrhea meds
  • Anticholinergics-used to treat urinary incontinence

In addition, muscle relaxers, pain relievers, sleeping pills and other sedatives can cause dryness. If you are taking any medications, check with your doctor or pharmacist to learn about the side effects. The side effect can also accompany certain medical treatments, such as the cancer treatments, radiation and chemotherapy.


Breathing through your mouth will cause dryness. If you commonly wake in the morning with the symptom, it could be caused by sleep apnea. Other symptoms of sleep apnea include daytime fatigue, loud snoring and scratchy throat. It is a condition in which breathing stops repeatedly when a person falls asleep.


Dry mouth could be a symptom of a disease or an infection. When it is accompanied by excessive thirst, it may be a symptom of diabetes. Type II diabetes appears during adulthood. Other symptoms include shakiness, irritability and frequent urination.


Any infection that causes fever will also cause increased thirst. The body needs additional fluids in order to continue fighting the infections.

Dry Mouth


Nerve damage could be the problem if the head or neck has been injured. Surgery involving any area above the neck, no matter how minor, can cause nerve damage. Damage to the nerves leading to the salivary glands would reduce production of saliva. In some cases, the damage is only temporary, but you should mention the symptom to your doctor.


Besides being annoying, dry mouth can increase your risk of gum disease and tooth decay. Be sure to drink plenty of water and see your dentist regularly.

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