Sudden Dry Mouth

Close up of Hispanic woman?s mouth
Close-up of mouth. (Image: Trinette Reed/Blend Images/Getty Images)

Dry mouth is a condition characterized by a lack of saliva or presence of thick saliva that prevents your mouth from staying moist. It can cause difficulties with chewing, talking and swallowing, increase thirst and increase the risk of developing cavities or mouth sores, according to MedlinePlus. Sudden dry mouth is often a symptom of another underlying medical condition or a side effect of medications or treatments. Consult your physician if you experience sudden, persistent dry mouth.

Healthy Saliva

KidsHealth by Nemours explains that, in a healthy mouth, the salivary glands located inside your cheeks and throughout your mouth produce saliva around the clock, spilling out between 2 to 4 pints each day. Saliva not only provides a moist environment, it also assists your digestive system by starting the process of breaking down foods. Enzymes found in saliva also help stave off infection. In a dry mouth, the salivary glands either stop producing saliva or ooze a viscous solution that fails to perform its normal tasks.

Additional Symptoms of Dry Mouth

In addition to an overall feeling of stickiness or dryness, sudden dry mouth may also manifest as a dry feeling in the throat, burning pain in the mouth, a rough tongue or cracked lips, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. Sores or infection in the mouth may also accompany sudden dry mouth. Since saliva is essential to proper functioning of the taste buds, your food may taste off or have little to no flavor.

Causes of Sudden Dry Mouth

Dry mouth has a myriad of potential causes from minor dehydration to long-term illnesses. Dry mouth that comes on suddenly may be a side effect of medications such as antihistamines, decongestants, anti-depressants and drugs used to treat urinary incontinence, according to MayoClinic.com. Smoking, chewing tobacco and breathing or snoring with your mouth open can dry out your mouth. Sudden dry mouth can also accompany nerve damage from an injury or signal a possible stroke, so if the condition comes on unexpectedly with no other apparent cause, seek medical attention.

Diagnosis

Because dry mouth is typically a symptom of another condition, your physician or dentist will look at other factors involved, such as recent illness, use of medications and lifestyle habits. Blood work, images of your salivary glands and other lab tests may be ordered to determine underlying cause, explains MayoClinic.com. Before your appointment, make a list of any medications and supplements you are taking, including over-the-counter drugs, vitamins and herbal remedies.

Treatment/Prevention

Treating the underlying cause may alleviate sudden dry mouth. If medication is the culprit, your physician may adjust your dosage. The American Cancer Society recommends sucking on sugarless candy to stimulate saliva production and limiting caffeinated beverages. Drink plenty of fluids, rinse your mouth after each meal with plain water and brush regularly. Try to eat moist foods, such as soup or yogurt. Avoid mouthwashes that contain alcohol and acidic foods or beverages.

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