The clinical name for dry mouth is Xerostomia (pronounced ZEER-oh-STOH-mee-ah). Sicca Syndrome may, or may not, be related to Sjogren's Disease (an autoimmune disorder). It is often related to Fibromyalgia Syndrome.
Sjogren's (pronounced SHOW-grens) also often exhibits other dryness issues, such as with the eyes, nose, intestines (causing constipation) and vagina (causing irritation). It is also related to ear fullness, hearing loss and ear noise. I mention Sjogren's because Sicca Syndrome usually is found in combination with other autoimmune disorders, with Sjogren's being the most common. However, you can have dry mouth for other reasons as well.
The cause of Xerostomia is the underproduction of saliva from the salivary glands. This condition is most often a 'total body' condition and not a 'mouth' condition, meaning there is something else going on in your body (or mind) or you are putting something in your mouth that doesn't work for you.
Symptoms of Dry Mouth Syndrome
Symptoms may include dry mouth and tongue, a sensation that your tongue or other parts of the mouth are burning, mouth sores, metallic taste, reduced ability to taste certain foods, sensitivity to certain foods, trouble swallowing, areas of soreness when using dentures or partials, significant increase in cavities or dental carries (tiny dips in teeth at the gum line) and difficulty in talking (as if your tongue gets caught on the inside of your cheek). You may also notice your tongue looks a different color than it used to.
The natural job of saliva is to begin digestion, protect teeth from decay and the mouth from infection by washing away sugars and food particles, and to facilitate chewing and swallowing. It is hard to chew and swallow when there is not enough moisture. Imagine eating a mouthful of dry crackers with nothing to wash it down. This is the constant effect of salivary glands not functioning properly.
Possible Causes of Dry Mouth Syndrome
The most common cause is prescription and over-the-counter drugs. There are over 1800 drugs that can cause dry mouth and eyes. The most common types of drugs leading to this condition are high blood pressure medications, antidepressants, allergy medications, weight loss and pain prescriptions and OTC drugs. There are other products that cause dry mouth as well.
Eating or drinking foods that are too hot or too cold.
Drinking beverages containing caffeine, which is acidic and drying.
Radiation Therapy & Chemotherapy
High Blood Pressure
Nerve damage to head and/or neck that regulates saliva output.
Depression, anxiety and nervousness causing the salivary glands to produce less saliva.
Chewing less than you used to. If for any reason you are not chewing 'tough' foods anymore (like celery, meat, raw carrots, nuts) then the salivary glands decrease in size, producing less lubrication. As you age, you may tend to lean towards eating foods that are gentler on your teeth. This can cause less saliva production, although not so much that it should be a noticeable problem.
Certain autoimmune diseases such as Sjogren's (see the full list of symptoms below), Hodgkin's, HIV/AIDS, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's Disease can be the cause of dry mouth and eyes (and other dry areas of the body). Fibromyalgia is also a cause of dry mouth, eyes and other dryness problems (nose, breathing airways, intestines, and vagina).
Sjogren's Syndrome often appears at the same time as menopause and is characterized by dry mouth, dry eyes and, at times, Burning Mouth Syndrome.
Dry mouth often causes deterioration of the teeth and trouble swallowing. There may also be inflammation of the joints, kidneys, thyroid, nerves or other areas of the body. Women may experience severe fatigue and sleep disruption.
Sjogren's patients blood tests may reveal antibodies that are directed against normal cellular substances (the body attacks its own cells). For this reason, Sjogren's Syndrome is considered an autoimmune disorder.
FS and Sjogren's often have many of the same symptoms. There are no blood tests for Fibromyalgia, while, as already stated, there are for Sjogren's.
Symptoms of Sjogren's Syndrome
Dry skin and dry, irritated nose membranes.
Yeast infection (Candida) in the mouth or on the tongue.
Hoarseness while speaking or a dry, nagging cough.
Vaginal dryness causing painful intercourse or vaginal pain in general.
Dulled hearing and ear fullness. This happens when the immune system attacks the ears (AIED).
Damage or inflammation to lungs (causes breathlessness), kidney and liver.
Raynaud's phenomenon, which is increased sensitivity to cold causing pale fingers.
Inflammation of the muscles in the shoulder, neck and/or pelvic areas.
Joint pain and stiffness, often in the hands and feet.
Nerve and muscle pain and ache, especially upon use.
Constipation caused by internal dryness.
If you have many of these symptoms and fear you may have an auto-immune disorder it is better to know than to worry. See your doctor. There are tests that can be run to make sure there is not an underlying condition for your dryness.
Fibromyalgia may also cause all of these very same symptoms, with the exception of inflammation.
Natural Old World Remedies for Dry Mouth Syndrome
Brush your teeth, and your tongue, more often. Make sure you floss daily.
Dehydration may be the culprit. Don’t allow yourself to become dehydrated. Although saliva is not just water, but a lubricant, sipping and not gulping water while eating can help wash your food down.
Check your diet to make sure you are not ingesting too many oxalates and salicylates. These are plant toxins that occur naturally in foods and are in some products. A side effect of too many oxalates or salicylates is dry mouth and tongue.
Avoid mint and mint products.
Allergies to foods, chemicals and additives may also cause symptoms of dryness.
Switch to decaf beverages. Caffeine dries out the mouth. It is found is sodas, tea, coffee, chocolate and some drugs, such as Excedrin. Caffeine is also a diuretic and causes dehydration, which is another cause of dry mouth. It is also a stimulant, which reduces the supply of serotonin in the brain, leading to stress, which is another cause of dry mouth.
Try to avoid always eating soft foods. Chew tough foods. If you can't chew tougher foods see your dentist to see what you might be able to do to fix or replace them, so that you can.
Suck on something tart or sour. Try sucking on a lemons or limes to stimulate saliva production. Do not suck on candies, sugarless or otherwise, unless made with natural sweetener. They create dental decay and blood sugar problems.
Vitamin B deficiencies, especially B-6 and B-12, can cause nerves to become sensitive. A 50 mg B-Complex supplement may help you. If you have not noticed a difference within 3 months then B deficiency is not the issue. See Supplements for foods containing B vitamins.
Make sure you are eating whole food carbohydrates (fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains, rather than cookies, muffins and pre-packaged foods). Some of the fake fats and trans-fats in prepared products and fast foods can also cause Dry Mouth Syndrome.
Those having dry mouth often have dry eyes as well. Avoid reading in darkly lit areas and staring at pages of a book or a screen for too long a period without taking breaks to look up every 15 minutes or so.
Dry Mouth Associations
Spiritual/Psychological Causes for Dry Mouth Syndrome: Feeling as if some area of your life has dried up.
Disclaimer: TheCaptainsLady.com is a website belonging to the legally registered business, The Captains Lady, The information provided by TheCaptainsLady.com is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. It is not intended to replace any medical or behavioral care from a licensed health care practitioner, or in any way to practice medicine. Information provided is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the advice provided by your own physician or other medical professional.
Affiliate Disclosure: The author of this site, Mari J. Dionne, is a trusted affiliate of some of, but not all, businesses she advertises and does receive monetary compensation for any sales of products as a result of any sales made directly through interactive product links on and throughout her website, social applications, programs, e-books, newsletters, emails and any other promotional materials. The author does not accept any responsibility regarding information, promises or guarantees her affiliate associates make with regards to information or the products or services they provide.