In this article, we understand what are dry mouth causes at night and its symptoms. Your mouth is a very busy part of the digestive tract. It has to work continuously for different actions like chewing, swallowing, talking, etc, and to accomplish that it has to be lubricated adequately and continuously. Dry mouth at night is a common problem. To protect from dryness your mouth has salivary glands in and around it, which secrete saliva. Saliva is important for digestion as it moistens and breaks down food. Apart from moistening the mouth it also has substances that keep your teeth, gums, and tongue healthy and disease-free.
If due for any reason saliva is not produced in an adequate amount of if you breathe from your mouth for a longer duration, you will experience dry mouth. For example, nose block during cold or excessive snoring can give you a feeling of dry mouth at night. Dry mouth is also called xerostomia. Xerostomia is not a serious condition by itself but it can be very problematic.
Symptoms dry mouth at night
- Dry throat
- Feeling thirsty very frequently especially at night when you need to get up frequently to sip water
- Cracked lips or corner or mouth
- Sharp burning in the mouth, more often on the tongue
- Ulcers or red patches on the tongue
- Altered taste
- Difficulty in chewing, food sticking in different corners of the mouth
- Having to put more effort into swallowing
- Bad breath
- Hoarseness of voice.
- Thick or sticky saliva.
Dry mouth at night is not a serious condition but it can lead to complications –
- Oral ulcers
- Tooth decay
Dry mouth causes at night
1. Age- dry mouth is more common in older people. It happens because the older age group takes more medications and some of them are known to cause dry mouth like the antihypertensive drugs (medication for high blood pressure).
2. Medicines- Many drugs are likely to cause xerostomia or “dry mouth”. These are-
– Antihypertensives (drugs for high blood pressure)
– Antihistamines (drugs given during cold or for allergy)
– Decongestants (drugs prescribed during common cold and nose block)
– Antidiarrheals (drugs given to control diarrhea or loose stools)
– Skeletal muscle relaxants or SMRs- (drugs prescribed for muscle spasm or flickering)
– Antidepressants (drugs given during depression or anxiety)
– Antiparkinsonian drugs (drugs for Parkinson’s disease)
– Drugs used for urinary incontinence
– Anticancer medication or Chemotherapy (Drugs used to kill cancer)
3. Radiotherapy- treatment via radiation to kill cancer cells. Radiotherapy is given for head and neck cancers also damages the surrounding salivary glands and thus leads to xerostomia or dry mouth.
4. Tobacco chewing or smoking– tobacco consumed in any form leads to fibrosis (hardening of tissue of mouth). Due to fibrosis, the minor salivary glands in the mouth cannot freely secrete saliva resulting in a dry mouth.
5. Consuming less water- dehydration results in insufficient fluids.
6. living in a too hot environment- in hot surroundings there is excess loss of water from the body making you more prone to xerostomia or dry mouth.
7. Snoring- sleeping with mouth open all the time leads to dry mouth at night. Snoring in children is more commonly due to enlarged tonsils or adenoids.
8. Common cold/ nose block- cold and cough is very common and mouth breathing during common cold also leads to dry mouth.
9. Excessive alcohol consumption- Alcohol leads to dehydration and causes dry mouth.
10. Salivary gland disorder- although the saliva in the mouth comes from multiple sources, the malfunctioning of even one can significantly impair saliva production. A few examples are stone in any of the salivary gland or duct, inflammation or infection of the gland, trauma to the gland or duct, injury during a surgical procedure, etc.
11. Diseases- few medical conditions are directly associated with a dry mouth like, Diabetes, Sjogren syndrome (condition in which the defense system of the body attacks its own tear and salivary glands), Alzheimer’s disease, Fungal infection of the mouth, HIV, etc.
Here are some of the proven home remedies to help relieve dry mouth at night
The following measures stimulate saliva flow and leave a moisturizing effect in the mouth.
- Have plenty of water (and suck ice cubes) throughout the day to stay hydrated
- Limit consumption of salty, spicy, and sugary foods (example, cookies, toast, dry bread, dry meats)
- Increase intake of soft and moist foods (example, soups, broths, sauces)
- Avoid habits causing dehydration (example, avoid caffeine, sugar, acidic beverages)
- Cut down on smoking/alcohol
- Suck sugarless candies or chew sugarless gum
- Focus on oral hygiene of mouth (example, regularly brush, floss, and use alcohol-free mouthwash/fluoride toothpaste and rinse)
- Add moisture in your surrounding using an air humidifier
- Use herbal products (example, aloe vera, ginger)
- Breathe through your nose, instead of a mouth
- Avoid Over-the-Counter (OTC) antihistamines or decongestants at the pharmacy (Instead, try saliva substitute that has xylitol in it)
- Avoid wearing dentures during sleep
- Consult your doctor before stopping certain medications
- Visit your dentist regularly for dental check-ups
When to go to a doctor
If the above-mentioned remedies are not of any help it’s better to get yourself checked by a doctor. your doctor may prescribe you drugs to increase the flow of saliva and also may advise you to get some routine tests like Ultrasonography or sialometry (measures rate at which saliva flows). sometimes just the alteration in dose or schedule of medicines you are taking might help to relieve xerostomia.
Sometimes bigger investigations might be required to make a proper diagnosis. Your doctor may ask you to undergo sialography through which any stone or mass can be detected. For other conditions like Sjogren syndrome or malignancy (cancer) biopsy might be needed in which small tissue is taken from the salivary gland and sent to a laboratory for study.
Also, patients suffering from dry mouth for a longer period should frequently visit dentists to rule out any tooth decay.