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5 Most Common Causes Of Dry Mouth

According to Affinity Health, a leading provider of high-quality healthcare, dry mouth (medically known as xerostomia) is not just an annoyance but a real threat to oral health and overall well-being.


Saliva is essential in maintaining oral health and protecting the teeth and gums from bacteria and acids. When saliva production is reduced, it can lead to a range of dental problems, including mouth sores, oral thrush, tooth decay, gum disease, and bad breath.

What is Xerostomia? 

Xerostomia, or dry mouth, is a relatively common condition that affects many people at some point in their lives.


According to the American Dental Association, it is estimated that 20% of the population experiences dry mouth. However, the prevalence of dry mouth can vary depending on age and other factors. 

Signs and Symptoms

Insufficient saliva production can result in the following persistent symptoms:

  • Dryness or stickiness in the mouth
  • hick and stringy saliva
  • Bad breath
  • Difficulty with chewing, speaking, and swallowing
  • Sore throat or hoarseness
  • Dry or grooved tongue
  • Altered sense of taste
  • Difficulty with wearing dentures

What are the 5 Most Common Causes of Dry Mouth?

According to Affinity Health, the five most common causes of dry mouth are the following.

1. Medications: Dry mouth is a common side effect of many medications, including antihistamines, antidepressants, and blood pressure medications. These drugs can interfere with the salivary glands, reducing saliva production.


2. Dehydration: Dehydration is a common cause of dry mouth, as the body needs adequate fluids to produce saliva. When the body is dehydrated, the salivary glands may not produce enough saliva, leading to a dry mouth.


3. Ageing: The salivary glands may not function well as we age, leading to decreased saliva production. This can result in a dry mouth and an increased risk of dental problems.


4. Medical conditions: Certain conditions can cause dry mouth, including Sjogren’s syndrome, HIV/AIDS, diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease. These conditions can affect the salivary glands, reducing saliva production and causing dry mouth.


5. Lifestyle factors: Lifestyle factors like smoking and alcohol consumption can also contribute to dry mouth. Smoking can interfere with the salivary glands, while alcohol can lead to dehydration, reducing saliva production.

Other less common causes of dry mouth include nerve damage to your head and neck and recreational drug use.


“Dry mouth is a common condition that can lead to a range of dental problems if left untreated. It’s important to understand the causes of dry mouth so that you can take steps to prevent it,” says Murray Hewlett, CEO of Affinity Health. 

How is Xerostomia Diagnosed?

When diagnosing dry mouth, your doctor will typically review your medical history and current prescription and over-the-counter medications. They will also examine your mouth for any signs of dryness.

In some cases, further testing may be necessary to determine the cause of your dry mouth. This may include blood tests, imaging scans of the salivary glands, or saliva production tests.

If Sjogren’s syndrome is suspected, your doctor may take a biopsy sample from your lip to test for the condition.

“Sjogren’s syndrome is a chronic autoimmune disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks and damages the glands that produce moisture, such as the salivary and tear glands,” explains Hewlett.

“This results in dry mouth and dry eyes, as well as other symptoms such as joint pain, fatigue, and skin rashes. Sjogren’s syndrome can also affect other body parts, including the lungs, kidneys, and nervous system. The cause of Sjogren’s syndrome is not fully understood, but it is thought to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors. There is no cure for Sjogren’s syndrome, but treatment can help manage symptoms and prevent complications.”

How to Prevent Dry Mouth

To prevent dry mouth, Affinity Health recommends the following tips.

  • Drink plenty of water
  • Chew sugar-free gum or suck on sugar-free candies
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol
  • Use a humidifier
  • Brush and floss regularly
  • Limit sugary and acidic foods
  • Use a fluoride mouthwash
  • Avoid tobacco
  • Talk to your doctor about your medications
  • Seek treatment for underlying medical conditions

About Affinity Health

Affinity Health is South Africa’s leading health insurance provider, offering you a range of options at affordable rates, including access to the widest national provider network. We understand the importance of having medical insurance that meets your needs, your budget, and your lifestyle. Our healthcare products are designed to protect you and your family when it matters the most. We strive to give our clients peace of mind and the highest standard of service. For more information, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


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