Waking up in the morning with a dry mouth can be very uncomfortable. It can also have serious health implications. It’s important to identify the underlying cause of your dry mouth to understand which steps to take next.
Sometimes, you may be able to treat or prevent dry mouth. In some cases, the underlying cause is incurable. However, 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
- helps wash away the food you eat
A dry mouth may cause symptoms such as:
- a mild to severe sore throat
- burning in your mouth
- difficulty swallowing
- difficulty speaking
- dryness in your nose and nasal passageways
Dry mouth can lead to:
- poor nutrition
- dental complications, such as gum disease, cavities, and tooth loss
- psychological distress, such as anxiety, stress, or depression
- an impaired 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:
- clogged nasal passages
- another health condition
Snoring and obstructive sleep apnea may cause mouth breathing and dry mouth.
In addition, people with more severe cases of obstructive sleep apnea were more likely to experience dry mouth than people with milder cases.
The SAHS group contained 60 people, and 45 percent of them experienced dry mouth upon awakening. The control group contained 54 people, and only 20.4 percent of them reported dry mouth.
People with SAHS were more likely to develop dry mouth if they had:
- a more severe case of apnea
- a higher body mass index (BMI)
- used a CPAP machine to help treat their 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, such as anxiety or depression
- Parkinson’s disease
- sleep conditions
- nausea and vomiting
- overactive bladder
- nerve pain
You may develop chronic dry mouth if you must take medications like these to manage a serious health condition.
You’re also at a greater risk for dry mouth if you take multiple medications at a time.
It’s important to talk with 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 avoid 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 over age 65 years or the nearly 40 percent of adults over age 80 years with this condition.
Aging itself may not be the cause of dry mouth. Dry mouth may be the result of the medications you take to manage other health conditions.
Some conditions can also cause dry mouth, including 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 your blood sugar levels are constantly high. Dry mouth may also occur because of the medications you take.
Taking steps to manage your diabetes will help reduce your risk for dry mouth. Talk with 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 fluids, preferably water. This can lead to dehydration and cause dry mouth in the morning.
Dry mouth can also be accompanied by:
- an increased heart rate
Dehydration in people with Alzheimer’s disease may cause more trips to the emergency room and admissions into the hospital.
Drink plenty of water in order 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 disease 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 mostly affects people who have experienced menopause.
Though there’s no cure for an autoimmune disease, your doctor will work with you to help manage your symptoms.
Other autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus, may occur alongside Sjögren’s disease.
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 temporary dry mouth. It may occur immediately after you begin 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 after using mouthwashes with alcohol in them.
Tobacco can alter your salivary flow rate. It can also affect your oral health.
- gum disease
- loose teeth
Ecstasy, heroin, and methamphetamine can cause dry mouth. These drugs affect the saliva flow in your mouth, much like tobacco.
Substance use can also affect your oral health and your ability to practice good oral hygiene. Methamphetamine in particular is highly acidic and can cause rapid tooth decay.
There are several treatments available to lessen symptoms of dry mouth, even if the underlying cause can’t be cured.
Tips to alleviate dry mouth
You can try to alleviate dry mouth with home remedies, such as:
- chewing sugar-free gum
- sucking on sugar-free candies
- sucking on ice chips
- staying hydrated
- drinking water with meals
- chewing thoroughly before swallowing
- avoiding dry, spicy, or salty foods
- 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, such as specialized toothpastes and mouthwashes
- fluoride treatments
- nasal and mouth sprays
- oral medications
Tips for good oral hygiene
If you have dry mouth, it’s important to take steps to keep your mouth clean and healthy. This can help you avoid dental problems and yeast infections such as oral thrush.
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, which may help prevent yeast growth
- rinsing your mouth after using inhaled medication
- keeping blood sugar levels well managed
If your dry mouth is frequent or severe, talk with your doctor. They will want to diagnose the cause of your dry mouth to recommend the appropriate treatment plan.
Also report any oral symptoms that accompany dry mouth. Look for changes to the inside of your mouth, such as:
- discolored patches
- symptoms of gum and tooth decay
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, gum and tooth decay, and other conditions
- ask about your medical history
- request a blood sample or a biopsy
- measure how much saliva you produce
- conduct an imaging test to check your salivary glands
- review all your prescription medications, over-the-counter medications and remedies, and supplements
- ask about whether you smoke or use recreational drugs
Oral 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.
A doctor or dentist may evaluate your saliva levels to identify your risk for oral thrush.
You can use antifungal medications to contain thrush. Practicing good oral health and rinsing your mouth with salt water will reduce your risk for developing the infection.
There are many reasons why you wake up with a dry mouth. Your sleeping habits, medications, or an underlying condition may be causing your dry mouth.
If you’re concerned, talk with your doctor to find out why you get dry mouth. They can recommend a treatment plan that will best meet your medical needs.