What causes dry mouth? 24 possible conditions

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Dry Mouth

Dry mouth (xerostomia) is a condition that occurs when salivary glands in the mouth don’t work properly. It causes a parched feeling in the mouth. Other symptoms include a rough tongue, mouth sores, and cracked lips.

Saliva is a necessary part of the digestion process. It’s needed to moisten and break down food and works as a major defense mechanism to help your body maintain good dental health. Saliva protects the mouth against gum disease and tooth decay.  While not a serious medical condition, dry mouth can be a sign of a larger medical problem.

Causes of Dry Mouth

Many things can cause dry mouth. If you smoke, you have a greater chance of having dry mouth. Some diseases such as diabetes can also lower the amount of saliva. Medications can also affect the amount of saliva you have. Some of the other causes of dry mouth include:

  • stress
  • appetite suppressants
  • autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis or Sjögren's syndrome
  • botulism
  • chemotherapy
  • radiation therapy of the head and neck
  • tranquillizers
  • marijuana

Treatments for Dry Mouth

Dry mouth is usually a temporary and treatable condition. Sometimes, the treatment depends upon the cause of dry mouth. In most cases, it can be treated by doing one or more of the following:

  • sipping water often
  • sucking on ice cubes or sugarless candy
  • chewing sugarless gum
  • avoiding alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco
  • avoiding salty or spicy foods
  • limiting sugar intake
  • using a humidifier in your bedroom overnight
  • taking over-the-counter saliva substitutes

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See a list of possible causes in order from the most common to the least.

1

Dehydration

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Dehydration occurs when you lose more fluid than you drink. The most common cause of water loss from the body is excessive sweating. Headaches, dizziness, and decreased urination are symptoms.

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2

Hyperventilation

Hyperventilation happens when you suddenly start breathing very quickly. Exhaling more than you inhale causes low carbon dioxide levels, which leads to lightheadedness and tingling in the fingers.

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3

Anxiety

What is anxiety? Anxiety often manifests itself as an apprehension about daily life. Learn the basics with this overview of the types of anxiety disorders.

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4

Diabetes Overview

Diabetes is a group of chronic metabolic diseases caused by defects in insulin production or function. Advanced diabetes may cause stomach pain, nausea, dizziness, and cramps.

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5

Anemia

Anemia occurs when the number of healthy red blood cells (RBCs) in the body is too low. Red cells carry oxygen to all the body's tissues, so a low red blood cell count indicates that the amount of oxygen in the blood i...

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6

Acute Stress Disorder

In the weeks after a traumatic event, you may develop an anxiety disorder called acute stress disorder (ASD). ASD typically occurs within one month of a traumatic event. It lasts at least two days and up to one month...

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7

Cholera

Cholera is a serious bacterial disease that can cause severe diarrhea and dehydration. The disease is usually spread through contaminated water. Immediate treatment is necessary because death can occur within hours i...

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8

Alcoholic Liver Disease

Damage to the liver from excessive drinking can lead to ALD. Years of alcohol abuse cause the liver to become inflamed and swollen. This damage can also cause scarring known as cirrhosis. Cirrhosis is the final stage o...

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9

Marijuana Dependence

Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States. Uncontrollable or overly frequent marijuana consumption may indicate abuse or addiction.

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10

Salivary Gland Infections

A salivary gland infection occurs when a bacterial or viral infection affects the salivary gland or duct. The infection can result from reduced saliva flow or the blockage or inflammation of a salivary duct. Th...

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11

Sarcoidosis

Sarcoidosis is an inflammatory disease where granulomas (clumps of immune cells, usually macrophages) form in various organs. This causes organ inflammation. Doctors believe that sarcoidosis may be caused by an abnorma...

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12

Sjogren's Syndrome

In a healthy body, the immune system attacks foreign bacteria or invaders. Sometimes the immune system starts attacking your own body, because it thinks foreign material is present. If this happens, it cause...

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13

Enlarged Adenoids

Adenoids are small tissues located at the back of the throat. They are similar to the tonsils, and located right above them. Both adenoids and tonsils are part of the immune system.Adenoids are present at birth, an...

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14

Type 2 Diabetes Overview

Type 2 diabetes, is a common chronic metabolic disease that leads to abnormally high levels of blood sugar in the blood. This blood sugar is also referred to as "glucose."

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15

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is a chronic disease. People with type 1 have high levels of glucose in their blood. Glucose is a natural sugar that your body uses as a source of energy. It is obtained from food. Extra glucose i...

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16

Lichen Planus

Lichen planus is a common skin rash that is not contagious. Common symptoms may include lesions in the mouth which may be painful or cause a burning sensation.

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17

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus

The immune system normally fights off dangerous infections and bacteria to keep the body healthy. An autoimmune disease occurs when the immune system attacks its own body because it confuses it for something foreign...

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18

Alcoholic Liver Cirrhosis

Drinking too much alcohol can harm the liver. It can result in a serious disease known as ALC (ALC). The liver in the organ in your body that is responsible for the breakdown of harmful toxins like alcohol. It als...

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19

Lupus

Lupus is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation throughout the body. An autoimmune disease is a condition where the body's own immune system is responsible for the inflammation and breakdown of its own cells...

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20

Rheumatoid Arthritis Overview

Learn about rheumatoid arthritis information, causes, symptoms and treatments. Explore our doctor-reviewed articles and read more now!

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This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to diagnose.
Please consult a healthcare professional if you have health concerns.
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