What Causes Dry-Mouth? | Dietary & Medical Causes of Dry-Mouth

What Causes Dry-Mouth? | Dietary & Medical Causes of Dry-Mouth

Dry-mouth, or Xerostomia, is a common condition with many different underlying causes. Below we discuss some of the most common causes of the condition, including medications, smoking, diet and radiation therapy.

Medications That Can Cause Dry Mouth

Dry mouth is frequently listed as a side effect of many medications. The following list touches on some of the main groups of medications, and examples of each, that can contribute to dry mouth.

  • Asthma Inhalers
    Relievers and Preventers (eg. for asthma, COPD, emphysema)
  • Antidepressants
    Tricyclics, SSRI’s and SNRI’s
  • Blood pressure medicines
    Fluid tablets, Beta blockers, ACE Inhibitors
  • Opioid Pain Relievers
    Codeine, Oxycodone, Buprenorphine, Morphine
  • Sedatives and sleeping tablets
    Benzodiazepines, Z-drugs (eg. Zolpidem, Zopiclone) & Antihistamines (e.g. Doxylamine)
  • Stimulants
    Caffeine, Pseudoephedrine, Weight loss pills, Herbal remedies &  ADHD meds.

Links with Alcohol, Drugs & Smoking

Some common causes of dry-mouth that are particularly relevant for young people include the use of cigarettes, recreational drugs and alcohol.

Due to their age, young people often overlook the inherent risks of these activities as they can take a long time to present themselves in the form of a serious medical condition. However, Dr Tuffley says,

“However, the dehydrating properties of recreational drug use, smoking and alcohol can have drastic effects on your long-term dental health – not to mention the immediate effects of bad breath and tooth decay,” says Dr David Tuffley.

Examples of recreational drugs that can not only cause dry-mouth but also have a devastating impact on your teeth include stimulants, such as methamphetamine, and opiates.

Dry Mouth & Radiotherapy

While modern cancer treatments aim to minimize the dose of radiation to healthy tissue, radiotherapy to the head and neck may inadvertently damage the salivary glands. This damage can negatively impact saliva production with Dr Stephen Robinson saying,

“If the radiation dose to the saliva glands is relatively low then they may recover. However, with higher doses the damage to salivary glands may result in a permanent reduction in the quantity and quality of saliva.”

This has a two-fold effect. Not only does it promote dry-mouth, but this lack of saliva can also contribute to higher rates of dental decay.

“Dry mouth creates a saliva-poor environment where the risk of dental decay is much higher. Radiation treatment also adversely affects bone healing. If decayed teeth need to be extracted from the affected area, healing may be slow or may even fail completely. It is therefore all the more important that tooth decay is prevented (if you are suffering dry mouth).”

This is why management of these dry mouth symptoms is vital during cancer treatment, and with an appropriate treatment plan, we aim to minimize dry-mouth and to manage this increased potential for dental decay.