Waking up in the morning with a dry mouth can be very uncomfortable and have serious health implications. It’s important to identify the underlying cause of your dry mouth to understand why it’s happening.
Sometimes, you may be able to treat or prevent dry mouth, but in some cases, the cause of it is incurable. There are ways to relieve dry mouth even if you can’t eliminate it altogether.
The medical term for dry mouth is xerostomia. Dry mouth occurs when you don’t have enough saliva in your mouth because your glands don’t produce enough of it. This is known as hyposalivation.
Saliva is very important to your health because it kills bacteria, cleans your mouth, and helps wash away food you eat.
A dry mouth may cause symptoms like:
- a mild to severe sore throat
- burning in your mouth
- difficulty swallowing
- hoarseness and speech problems
- dryness in your nose and nasal passageways
Dry mouth can lead to:
- poor nutrition
- dental complications, like gum disease, cavities, and tooth loss
- psychological distress, like anxiety, stress, or depression
- a decreased sense of taste
Many different factors can cause dry mouth. Some of these factors may lead to a constant dry mouth, while other factors may dry your mouth temporarily. Here are nine reasons why you may wake up with a dry mouth.
Your sleeping habits may be the reason why you wake up with a dry mouth. You may experience a dry mouth if you sleep with your mouth open. This can occur because of habit, clogged nasal passages, or another health condition.
Medications are a significant cause of dry mouth. Hundreds of them may cause dry mouth, including those taken for:
- sinus conditions
- high blood pressure
- mental health conditions, like anxiety or depression
- Parkinson’s disease
- sleep conditions
- nausea and vomiting
You’re also more at risk for dry mouth if you take multiple medications at a time. You may live with chronic dry mouth because you can’t stop taking certain medications that manage serious health conditions.
It’s important to talk to your doctor about ways you can relieve dry mouth and still follow your medication regimen. It may be possible for you to shift when you take your medications to relieve waking up with a dry mouth.
Your doctor may also be able to identify and prescribe another medication that doesn’t cause dry mouth.
You may experience dry mouth more frequently as you age. You may be one of the 30 percent of adults 65 and older or the 40 percent of adults 80 and older with this condition.
Aging itself may not be the cause of dry mouth. You may experience dry mouth as you age because of medications you take to manage other health conditions.
You may also have other conditions that cause dry mouth. Some of these conditions are listed here, like diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease.
There are several reasons why you may experience dry mouth if you have diabetes. You may experience it if you’re dehydrated or if you have constant levels of high blood sugar. Dry mouth may also occur from medications you take for diabetes.
To reduce the risk of dry mouth, make sure you have your diabetes under control. Talk to your doctor about the medications you take to see if you can change any of them to lessen your dry mouth.
Alzheimer’s disease can interfere with your ability to hydrate yourself or to communicate to someone else that you need to drink. This can lead to dehydration and cause dry mouth in the morning.
Dry mouth can also be accompanied by dizziness, an increased heart rate, and delirium. Dehydration in people with Alzheimer’s disease may cause more trips to the emergency room and admissions into the hospital.
Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration. If you care for someone with Alzheimer’s disease, encourage them to drink water throughout the day. Be mindful that changes in weather or indoor environment may increase the amount of water you should drink.
Sjögren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disease that affects your connective tissue and the glands near your mouth and eyes. A primary symptom of this condition is dry mouth. The condition occurs mostly in women who have experienced menopause.
There’s no way to cure this autoimmune condition. Your doctor will work with you to manage your symptoms. You may have other autoimmune conditions with Sjögren’s syndrome, like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus.
Treatment for head and neck cancers may also cause dry mouth. Radiation directed at your head and neck can cause permanent damage to your salivary glands, leading to long-term dry mouth.
Chemotherapy may also cause dry mouth temporarily. It may occur immediately while undergoing cancer treatments, or the condition may develop months or years afterward.
You may experience dry mouth following alcohol consumption or tobacco use.
Alcohol is acidic and can be dehydrating, leading to dry mouth and even problems with your teeth. You may even experience dry mouth from using mouthwashes with alcohol in them.
Tobacco can alter your salivary flow rate. It can also impact your oral health.
Some drugs can cause dry mouth. These drugs affect the saliva flow in your mouth, much like tobacco. Ecstasy, heroin, and methamphetamine can cause dry mouth.
Drug use can also impact your oral health and your ability to practice good oral hygiene. Methamphetamine is highly acidic and can immediately impact your oral health, causing rapid tooth decay.
There are several treatments available to lesson symptoms of dry mouth, even if the underlying cause can’t be cured.
Tips to alleviate dry mouth
You can try some home-based treatments to alleviate dry mouth. These include:
- chewing sugar-free gum
- sucking on sugar-free candies
- staying hydrated
- sucking on ice chips
- drinking water with meals
- avoiding dry, spicy, or salty foods
- chewing thoroughly before swallowing
- avoiding alcohol and caffeine
- using a cold air humidifier in your bedroom
Products to alleviate dry mouth
Your doctor may also recommend products to help stimulate your salivary glands and relieve your dry mouth. These include:
- gels and other topical treatments, like specialized toothpastes and mouthwashes
- fluoride treatments
- nasal and mouth sprays
- oral medications
You should also take steps to keep your mouth clean and healthy if you have dry mouth. This can help you avoid dental problems and yeast infections like thrush.
Thrush, or oral candidiasis, is a very common fungal condition that occurs with dry mouth. You may experience this yeast infection with dry mouth because your body isn’t producing enough saliva to eliminate the fungus that causes it.
Your healthcare provider may evaluate your saliva levels to identify your risk for thrush.
Report any symptoms in your mouth that accompany dry mouth. Look for changes to the inside of your mouth, like discolored patches and ulcers and signs of gum and tooth decay.
Tips for good oral hygiene
Methods to keep your mouth healthy include:
- brushing your teeth twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush and a gentle toothpaste
- flossing and using fluoride daily
- seeing your dentist regularly for cleanings
- eating yogurt regularly to avoid yeast growth
You should see your doctor if your dry mouth is frequent or severe. Your doctor will want to diagnose the cause of your dry mouth to recommend the appropriate treatment plan.
If you don’t already have a primary care provider, you can browse doctors in your area through the Healthline FindCare tool.
At your appointment, your doctor may:
- review your physical symptoms, including looking in your mouth for saliva output, sores, tooth and gum decay, and other conditions
- ask about your medical history
- take blood or do a biopsy
- measure how much saliva you produce
- conduct an imaging test to check your salivary glands
There are many reasons why you wake up with a dry mouth. Your sleeping habits, medications, or an underlying condition may cause it. If you’re concerned, see your doctor to find out why you get dry mouth. Your doctor can recommend a treatment plan that’ll alleviate this condition.