Dry mouth (xerostomia) might seem like an annoying thing that happens at night from time to time. But if it occurs regularly, it needs to be treated. Left untreated, it can affect a variety of things, including eating, speaking, and your general oral health.

Saliva is necessary for tooth and gum health, and enzymes in saliva help aid in digestion. If your mouth is dry throughout the night, your oral health might be affected without you even knowing it.

Symptoms of persistent dry mouth at night can include:

  • thick or stringy saliva
  • bad breath
  • changes in your sense of taste
  • issues while wearing dentures
  • difficulty chewing or swallowing
  • sore throat
  • grooved tongue

If there isn’t enough saliva, there can be an increase in plaque in the mouth as well as thrush and mouth sores.

What causes dry mouth at night?

Dry mouth at night can be very common, especially in people over the age of 65. This is because, as we get older, saliva production ramps down by as much as 40 percent.

If you notice the problem only at night, the cause might be a nasal obstruction that forces you to breathe through your mouth only.

Many medications can also cause dry mouth or make the problem worse. In fact, it’s estimated that as many as 60 percent of regularly prescribed medications can have a dry-mouth side effect. This includes:

  • blood pressure drugs
  • antihistamines
  • antidepressants
  • anti-anxiety drugs

Other causes can include:

If you are experiencing dry mouth at night, it’s worth mentioning to your doctor. Together, you can talk through your lifestyle choices and any side effects of medications you’re taking.

How to treat dry mouth at home

Here are some things you can do at home to help treat dry mouth at night:

  • Keep a glass of water next to your bed in case you wake up at night and your mouth is dry.
  • Avoid using mouthwash that contains alcohol, since this can be drying.
  • Use a humidifier in your room at night to help keep moisture in the air.
  • Try to consciously breathe through your nose, not your mouth.
  • Monitor your caffeine intake and, if necessary, reduce your caffeine consumption. Caffeine can make dry mouth worse.
  • Try chewing sugarless gum or sucking on sugarless candy.
  • Stop using tobacco (smoking or chewing).
  • Try to avoid over-the-counter antihistamines or decongestants, which can dry out your mouth.
  • Sip water throughout the day and minimize consumption of salty foods, especially at night.

Medical treatments for dry mouth at night

Any medical treatments depend on the underlying cause of the dry mouth, so treatment for nighttime dry mouth can vary from person to person.

If your dry mouth at night is due to medications you are taking, and home remedies aren’t helping, your doctor might want to switch your medications or adjust dosage.

Your doctor or dentist might prescribe certain medications that help your body produce saliva, or in certain cases, fit you with fluoride trays to wear at night to help prevent cavities.

They might also recommend certain over-the-counter options you can use:

  • alcohol-free mouthwash
  • dry mouth toothpaste
  • artificial saliva
  • saliva-stimulating lozenges

If your dry mouth is due to a nasal problem like a severely deviated septum that causes you to sleep with your mouth open in order to breathe, your doctor might suggest surgery. A septoplasty is a commonly performed procedure to correct a deviated septum. Symptoms related to nasal obstruction from the deviated septum typically resolve afterward.

What’s the outlook for dry mouth at night?

Dry mouth at night can be annoying and uncomfortable, it can also be harmful to your oral health. Many cases of dry mouth can be treated with lifestyle and medication changes. Less frequently, it may be caused by a deviated septum and require more intensive treatment.

It’s important to treat the cause of your dry mouth so you can maintain your oral health.