Salivary Gland Disease Dry Mouth Causes

Chances are, we’ve all experienced dry mouth at some point, perhaps when under stress, suffering from a cold or dehydrated. But serious cases of dry mouth syndrome have a serious name — xerostomia — and can have significant consequences if the causes of dry mouth and its symptoms are not addressed.

What causes dry mouth? A number of factors can result in dry mouth, and the first step in treating the condition is to identify its cause.

Symptoms of Dry Mouth Syndrome

Dry mouth syndrome results when your salivary glands aren’t producing enough saliva, or when the saliva your glands produce isn’t reaching your mouth. If dry mouth syndrome is severe, the following symptoms may be present:

  • Bad breath
  • Cracked lips
  • Difficulty speaking or eating
  • Dryness in mouth
  • Fungal infection
  • Gum disease
  • Increased plaque and tooth decay
  • Lipstick sticking to teeth
  • Sore throat
  • Sores at the corners of the mouth
  • Thick and stringy saliva
  • Weird sense of taste.

What Causes Dry Mouth?

While the symptoms of dry mouth syndrome are fairly straightforward, what causes dry mouth is a little more complex. That’s because there are many different causes of dry mouth, including:

  • Aging: Although we do tend to produce less saliva as we age, aging alone isn’t really what causes dry mouth. Instead, other health conditions, or a number of the different medications older adults are likely to take, are what causes dry mouth in seniors.
  • Cancer therapy: Chemotherapy can change saliva composition and flow, and radiation treatment can temporarily or permanently damage the salivary glands. When the salivary glands aren’t functioning, dry mouth can result.
  • Drugs: Many commonly prescribed medications have been identified as causes of dry mouth. Medications used to treat the following conditions can all contribute to dry mouth syndrome:
    • Allergies
    • Anxiety
    • Depression
    • Diarrhea
    • High blood pressure
    • Muscle relaxants
    • Pain
    • Parkinson’s disease.
  • Mental health issues: People with depression or significant anxiety issues can suffer from dry mouth syndrome, even if they’re not taking medications that include mouth-drying side effects.
  • Nerve damage: An injury or surgery in the head and neck area can result in dry mouth syndrome.
  • Salivary gland malfunction: A salivary gland stone or other problems with salivary glands are possible causes of dry mouth.
  • Sjogren’s syndrome: One of the principle causes of dry mouth, this autoimmune disease affects glands that produce fluid, like the salivary glands and tear ducts.
  • Tobacco use: Smoking or chewing tobacco can make a dry mouth even worse.
  • Various health conditions: Bone marrow transplants, diabetes, HIV infection and stroke can all be causes of dry mouth.

Resources

American Cancer Society. (2009). Mouth dryness. Retrieved September 29, 2010, from http://www.cancer.org/Treatment/TreatmentsandSideEffects/PhysicalSideEffects/DealingwithSymptomsatHome/caring-for-the-patient-with-cancer-at-home-mouth-dryness.

Drymouth.info. (n.d.). What causes dry mouth? Retrieved September 29, 2010, from http://www.drymouth.info/consumer/WhatCausesDM.asp.

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2009). Dry mouth. Retrieved September 29, 2010, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/dry-mouth/HA00034.

University of Illinois at Chicago. (n.d.). Xerostomia (dry mouth). Retrieved September 27, 2010, from http://www.uic.edu/classes/peri/peri343/xerost/xerost1.htm.

U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2009). Salivary duct stones. Retrieved October 3, 2010, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001039.htm.