5 Vitamin Deficiencies That Can Cause Dry Mouth

Vitamin deficiencies of A, B, zinc and iron can lead to dry mouth and oral health issues.
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Although you may not realize it, dry mouth can be caused by a variety of issues, including certain vitamin deficiencies. While common minerals such as sodium and potassium are not linked to dry mouth, other vitamins can cause dry mouth, peeling, a sore tongue and other oral side effects, according to a January 2013 review in the ‌Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research‌ (JCDR)‌.

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While it's best to resolve such deficiencies by incorporating more nutrient-rich foods into your diet, you can also take supplements, if needed.

Here's more about how deficiencies of certain vitamins cause dry mouth, and how to treat it.

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What Is Dry Mouth?

Xerostomia — commonly known as dry mouth — has many causes besides vitamin deficiencies, including dehydration, alcohol use, smoking, anxiety, certain medications or underlying conditions such as diabetes and Sjogren's syndrome (a chronic autoimmune disorder), according to the Mayo Clinic.

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Dry mouth occurs when there is a malfunction in your salivary glands, according to the Academy of General Dentistry. That means you don't have enough saliva in your mouth or are producing saliva of poor quality.

While this may not sound like a big deal, saliva is a major factor in keeping your mouth healthy and free of disease. Dry mouth and vitamin deficiency can increase your risk of cavities, oral diseases and complications, according to the ‌JCDR‌ review.

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What Causes Dry Mouth?

Lifestyle habits such as drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes and breathing through your mouth during sleep play a role. Sometimes, anxiety is the culprit. But as the UK's National Health Service notes, dry mouth is rarely a cause for concern.

There are cases when dry mouth may indicate an underlying condition: Diabetes, saliva gland disorders, HIV and other diseases may cause a dry mouth. Dry mouth may also be due to nerve damage caused by surgery or injuries, as well as Alzheimer's disease or stroke, according to the Mayo Clinic. Another potential cause is an oral yeast infection.

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5 Vitamin Deficiencies That Cause Dry Mouth

While there are supplements for dry mouth on the market, try incorporating these essential nutrients into your diet first.

1. Protein

We know, this is not a vitamin. But salivary glands can malfunction if you are deficient in protein, according to the ‌Journal of Dental Research‌. Depending on your calorie needs, about 50 to 175 grams of protein are recommended per day, according to the Mayo Clinic.

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Foods high in protein include:

  • Dairy products
  • Eggs
  • Legumes
  • Meat products
  • Nuts
  • Seitan
  • Seafood
  • Tofu

2. Vitamin A

Lack of vitamin A can cause dry mouth and oral health issues, according to the ‌Journal of the American Dietetic Association‌. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends most people get 5,000 international units of vitamin A on a daily basis.

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Foods high in vitamin A include:

  • Dairy products
  • Eggs
  • Fortified cereals
  • Fruits like cantaloupe and pumpkin
  • Vegetables like spinach, broccoli, carrots and sweet potatoes

3. Iron

While iron deficiencies can cause a myriad of issues in the body — including a red, painful tongue accompanied by a burning sensation — one common indicator is dry mouth, according to the ‌Archives of Oral Biology‌.

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The FDA recommends most people get 18 milligrams of iron per day.

Foods high in iron include:

  • Dark green vegetables
  • Legumes
  • Meat products
  • Seafood
  • Whole grains and enriched grains

4. Zinc

While zinc doesn't affect the salivary glands in the same way that protein, vitamin A and iron do, it can influence the amount of saliva that is produced in your mouth, resulting in dry mouth, according to the ‌JCDR‌ review.

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It can also affect the composition of the saliva you produce, meaning you may be less protected from cavities and more likely to develop oral infections or diseases.

Foods high in zinc include:

  • Fortified cereals
  • Dairy products
  • Legumes
  • Meat products
  • Nuts
  • Seafood
  • Whole grains

5. Vitamin B

Dry mouth and tongue symptoms may also occur at the same time due to a lack of B vitamins, according to the ‌Journal of American Dietetics Association‌.

For example, low vitamin B2 and B3 can cause a swollen tongue, while low vitamin B6 can cause a sore or burning tongue, per the ‌International Journal of Dermatology‌.

And because your mouth is meant to be coated in saliva at all times, vitamin B deficiency tends to cause adverse tongue symptoms, including white tongue, inflammation known as glossitis and peeling, per the ‌Journal of the Academy of General Dentistry.

Foods high in Vitamin B include:

Thiamin (vitamin B1):

  • Enriched grains and whole grains
  • Legumes
  • Nuts
  • Meat products, especially pork

Riboflavin (vitamin B2):

  • Eggs
  • Enriched grains
  • Meat products
  • Milk products
  • Seafood
  • Spinach

Niacin (vitamin B3):

  • Beans
  • Enriched grains and whole grains
  • Meat products
  • Nuts
  • Seafood

Vitamin B6:

  • Fruits
  • Legumes
  • Potatoes
  • Fish like salmon and tuna

Vitamin B12:

  • Dairy products
  • Eggs
  • Fortified cereals
  • Meat products
  • Seafood
  • Seaweed products that include nori and laver. However, not all seaweed contains this nutrient.

What About Sodium and Potassium?

Potassium and sodium help maintain your fluid balance, but deficiencies are rare in healthy people, per the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Most foods contain sodium in one form or another. Having dangerously low sodium levels — known as hyponatremia — is more likely if you have chronic diarrhea, a kidney disorder, take diuretics or drink too much water (because excess fluid dilutes sodium in your system), according to the Mayo Clinic.

Meanwhile, potassium deficiency is more common in people with inflammatory bowel disease like ulcerative colitis, pica (a condition that triggers cravings of non-edible substances) or those who take diuretics/laxatives in excess, per Harvard Health Publishing.

Deficiencies in both substances can cause symptoms such as headache, muscle cramps, fatigue, difficulty breathing and constipation, but there is no connection between low sodium or potassium intake and a dry mouth or tongue, per the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

So sure, you may feel that your mouth is dry if you have too much salt, but this isn't something to worry about.

Other Oral Side Effects Caused by Vitamin Deficiency

Unfortunately, dry mouth and dry, sore tongues aren't the only oral side effects caused by vitamin and mineral deficiencies, per the ‌JCDR‌ review. Vitamin A, B-complex vitamins and iron can also affect your lips, gums, periodontal fibers and ability to swallow. Some side effects, like bad breath caused by a lack of vitamin B12, are fairly mild. However, others can be serious and affect your long-term health.

Other oral side effects include, per the ‌JCDR‌ review:

  • Poor tooth formation/enamel quality (due to low vitamin A)
  • Inability to swallow and cracking in the corners of the mouth, called angular cheilitis (due to low iron and vitamin B)
  • Cracked lips (due to low vitamin B1)
  • Ulcers and gingivitis (due to low B2, B3 or B12)
  • Periodontal disease (due to low B6)
  • Detachment of periodontal fibers/tooth loss (due to low B12)

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How to Relieve a Dry Mouth

The dry mouth remedies below may help relieve some of your symptoms.

1. Eat Nutrient-Dense Foods

If you're experiencing dry tongue, dry mouth or any other vitamin deficiency symptoms, you may want to make sure you're getting enough nutrients in your daily diet.

According to Harvard Health Publishing, you need to get nearly 30 different vitamins and minerals from the foods you eat, because your body isn't able to produce these nutrients in sufficient amounts. Although you can take oral supplements, it's healthier to get these essential vitamins and minerals from the foods you eat, per the National Institute of Health.

2. See a Doctor

Ultimately, the best thing you can do is see a doctor. Your health care provider will assess your symptoms and order additional tests to rule out an underlying disorder.

For example, a March-April 2018 case report in the ‌Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism‌ states that dryness of the mouth is a common symptom of Sjogren's syndrome, an autoimmune disease.

If you are diagnosed with Sjogren's or another condition, your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes to relieve symptoms.

3. Stay Hydrated

Drink plenty of water and fill up on hydrating foods, like cucumbers, kale, melons and berries. Cut back on alcohol, caffeine, salt and sugary or spicy foods, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.

4. Chew Sugar-Free Gum

Chewing sugar-free gum may increase saliva flow and help ease a dry mouth, and sugarless hard candy has the same effect, according to the American Dental Association.

5. Use a Humidifier at Night

A humidifier adds moisture to the air in your room, alleviating dryness if you sleep with your mouth open, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

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references

Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.