What Causes Extreme Dry Mouth Where Teeth Stick to Lips?

Young woman puckering lips, close-up
Certain drugs list "dry mouth" as a side effect. (Image: Marili Forastieri/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

When your mouth is so dry that your teeth stick to your lips, it can be the symptom of a serious medical condition. Having a dry mouth can lead to greater tooth decay, as your body uses saliva to break down food particles that cling to teeth. You may also experience problems in tasting food, swallowing and even speaking. Talk to your doctor about your dry mouth so he can test for medical problems or drug side effects that could be causing the problem.

Drug Side Effects

MayoClinic.com notes that hundreds of prescription drugs currently list "dry mouth" as a side effect. If your mouth is dry and your teeth are sticking to your lips, it may be necessary to talk to your doctor about switching medications or adjusting your dosage so the side effects aren't disrupting your life and everyday activities. Blood pressure medication, antihistamines, decongestants and muscle relaxants are all culprits for dry mouth.

Medical Conditions

Certain medical conditions and diseases can cause dry mouth. The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research notes that diabetic conditions, HIV/AIDS and Sjögren's syndrome can all lead to dry mouth. Other medical conditions that cause dry mouth include depression, stroke and Parkinson's disease. If your dry mouth is sudden, it's important to talk to your doctor so she can run tests and find the underlying cause.

Nerve Damage

When you've sustained an injury so great that it's affected your nervous system, you may experience dry mouth. Nerve damage can sometimes lead to the salivary glands not receiving the proper signals to create more saliva, according to dental hygiene product manufacturer Colgate.

Chemotherapy and Radiation

Common therapies for cancer patients can lead to dry mouth. Radiation can damage salivary glands if they are exposed to the treatment. Cancer patients may find that their saliva feels thicker after chemotherapy treatments, making their moths feel dry. Chemotherapy can also alter the amount of saliva your salivary glands produces. Fortunately, saliva production usually goes back to normal following treatment, so long as the glands aren't damaged.

Tobacco Use

If you chew or smoke tobacco, you may notice dry mouth after smoking or chewing. Tobacco use in all of its forms can wreak havoc on the mouth, leaving mouth ulcers and decreased saliva production. The only way to stop the symptoms is to stop smoking. Unfortunately, dry mouth can also be a symptom of nicotine withdrawal, says the University of Minnesota Division of Periodontology.

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