Dry mouth at night can be annoying, at the very least, or is either a symptom of a more serious health condition or lead to more serious oral health problems, at worst. Here’s what you need to know.

What causes dry mouth?

Medically known as xerostomia, dry mouth while sleeping comes with aging. Our saliva production can drop as much as 40% when we get into our late 60s. Other causes include:

  • Nasal congestion that forces you to breathe through your mouth.
  • Prescription medications, including antihistamines, antidepressants, decongestants, and blood pressure drugs.
  • Health conditions such as diabetes, Sjogren’s syndrome, nerve damage, anxiety disorders, depression, HIV/AIDS, and Parkinson’s.
  • Cancer treatment, specifically radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
  • Tobacco use.
  • Dehydration.

What are the symptoms of dry mouth?

  • Bad breath
  • Thick or stringy saliva
  • Difficulty chewing or swallowing
  • Changes in your sense of taste
  • Sore throat
  • Grooved tongue
  • Split or cracked lips
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Increased thirstiness, particularly at night
  • Thrush and other oral fungal infections
  • Recurring gum disease
  • Tooth decay and plaque

What can you do to prevent dry mouth?

At Home

  • Increase your water intake throughout the day, and have a glass of water nearby when you go to sleep at night.
  • Use a humidifier in your bedroom to increase/maintain air moisture while you sleep.
  • Before drifting off to sleep, consciously breathe through your nose instead of your mouth.
  • Try sleeping without dentures.
  • Reduce consumption of salty foods, especially at dinnertime.
  • Reduce caffeine intake.
  • Avoid carbonated and sugary drinks, as well as sugary foods.
  • Avoid acidic drinks and foods.
  • Avoid spicy foods.
  • Minimize alcohol consumption.
  • Chew sugarless gum or suck on sugarless candy.
  • Don’t use alcohol-based mouthwash.
  • Avoid over-the-counter decongestants or antihistamines, as much as possible.
  • Quit tobacco.

With the Help of a Professional

  • If your prescription medications are the cause, your doctor can adjust their dosage or prescribe different meds.
  • Your dentist may recommend that you use dry-mouth toothpaste; saliva-stimulating lozenges; or artificial saliva.
  • Your dentist may recommend that you wear fluoride trays when you sleep to prevent cavities.
  • If the cause is a nasal problem associated with a deviated septum, your doctor may recommend septoplasty – a minor procedure that corrects a deviated septum.
  • Your doctor or dentist may prescribe medications that increase saliva production, such as pilocarpine (Salagen) or cevimeline (Evoxac).

Salivary enzymes do not only aid in digestion; they are also key to maintaining oral health. Persistent dry mouth while sleeping can lead to more serious oral conditions, and may also be a symptom of a bigger health problem. It is important to visit your dentist right away so the cause can be properly diagnosed and proper treatment can begin as soon as possible.

With simple changes to your lifestyle choices or with proper recommendations from your doctor or dentist, dry mouth while sleeping can be treated.