Stress is a part of life. It can occur during major life events such as getting married, buying a home, retiring or when there are changes in family obligations. It can also occur daily when stuck in traffic, dealing with an illness or when worrying about finances. Long-term stress or anxiety can lead to many health conditions and symptoms, including dry mouth or xerostomia. If this occurs, there are treatments for dry mouth due to stress that can be tried.
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Develop Coping Skills
The first step in managing symptoms related to stress is to identify the situations that cause stress. Then it is important to find healthy ways to manage these triggers. The National Institutes of Health suggests making a list of things or situations that might be causing stress or anxiety and then talking about them with family or friends. Sometimes meeting with a support group or talking with a professional counselor can help to identify triggers and provide suggestions as to healthy coping skills.
Coping skills can include finding alternative ways of looking at a stressful situation, avoiding trying to change things that can not be controlled or practicing one of the many relaxtion and meditation techniques that are available.
Increase Liquid Intake
When the body senses stress, there are many changes that happen to prepare the body to fight or flee. Bodily functions not deemed necessary for survival (such as digestion) are inhibited, while other functions (heart rate and breathing) are increased. This process can lead to the salivary glands producing too little saliva causing the mouth to become dry. Since there is no actual malfunction of the glands, dry mouth from stress may be relieved through increasing liquid intake, states the Merck Manuals Online Medical Library.
However it is best to stay away from or limit beverages with caffeine and alcohol as these substances can contribute to dehydration and exacerbate symptoms. This is important because alcohol an coffee consumption may be higher when feeling stressed. Drinking more liquids can be combined with chewing sugarless gum or candy, to help naturally stimulate saliva production.
Having inadequate saliva can over time cause damage to the teeth. One of the roles of saliva is to protect against cavities. In severe cases, dry mouth can make it difficult to swallow and talk, so it is important to keep the mouth moist. Breathing strictly through the mouth can make the mouth drier, but learning to inhale and exhale through the nose may help, claims the Mayo Clinic.
In addition nasal breathing is often used during meditation practices to help calm the body and mind. Taking time each day to relax by focusing on deep belly breaths through the nose, may help to manage both stress and dry mouth.
Use a Humidifier
A lack of saliva can make the mouth feel dry and it can also cause cracked lips, a sore tongue and increases the risk for sores and infections. The first step, is to have any medical condition that may be causing a dry mouth properly treated. Along with this the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research recommends using a humidifier at home or work to help keep the air you breathe moist.
If conservative measures to help lower stress levels and improve dry mouth symptoms fail, a physician may prescribe one of the many saliva substitute medications available. These medications mimic saliva but they do not necessarily make the saliva glands produce more saliva. This means that it is still important to address the underlying cause of dry mouth and learn how to reduce stress levels.