What Complications Can Result From Dry Mouth?

Dry mouth (clinically known as xerostomia) is a condition where the salivary glands don't produce enough saliva to keep your mouth wet (via Mayo Clinic). Saliva serves a critical role in maintaining dental health and supporting the digestive process. According to WebMD, adequate saliva production keeps your mouth comfortably hydrated, assists in digestion, prevents bad breath, and protects teeth from decay.

Dry mouth can be caused by a variety of factors; medications, radiation chemotherapy, or as a result of aging. Dry mouth can also be a symptom of an underlying health condition, such as Sjorgen's syndrome. Additionally, symptoms of dry mouth can be a natural indicator of dehydration (via NHS inform).

The majority of medications that cause dry mouth are anti-depressants, ACE inhibitors and other blood pressure medications, antihistamines, and decongestants (via Mayo Clinic). Radiation therapy can damage your salivary glands. Some patients may have dry mouth symptoms improve after radiation is completed. Additionally, damage to nerves caused by injury or medical treatments in the head and neck can lead to dry mouth. Excessive tobacco and alcohol use are also contributing factors, given alcohol's diuretic properties. Alcohol also reduces the body's production of vasopressin, an antidiuretic hormone that signals the body to hold on to water (via Healthline).

Treatment and complications of dry mouth

Treatment for xerostomia depends on the underlying cause, and addressing the issue immediately can help you in find the best course of action to prevent further complications. Your healthcare provider will assess your medications and see if any may be causing your dry mouth. When medications are the cause of dry mouth, it's possible to switch to one that won't impact saliva production (via Cleveland Clinic).

Your doctor may provide a prescription to help combat xerostomia symptoms, depending on their severity. For patients with Sjorgen's syndrome, Evoxac is often prescribed to treat symptoms. Evoxac is a cholinergic agonist, meaning it mimics the functions of acetylcholine in the body (via Drugs.com). Acetylcholine is a common neurotransmitter that supports the central and peripheral nervous systems.

Another cholinergic agonist prescribed to treat symptoms is Pilocarpine. This medication is primarily prescribed to treat xerostomia symptoms in patients receiving radiation therapy, and occasionally those with Sjorgen's syndrome (via MedlinePlus). Cholinergic agonists have troublesome side effects, so they aren't used unless necessary. When taking these medications, you may experience dizziness, flushing, painful urination, frequent urination, lowered blood pressure, and fatigue (via Mometrix).

Dry mouth can lead to increased plaque, tooth decay, and gum disease. It's also a known cause of bad breath, given saliva is needed to flush bacteria out of the mouth. Other complications include mouth sores, thrush, and angular cheilitis. Addressing your symptoms can help prevent severe complications associated with this condition.