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Ask the Doc: ‘Why is my mouth so dry?’


By Philip Murray

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Are you getting enough fluids?
Are you getting enough fluids?

Dr Laura Ryan answers your health questions.

Q. I’ve found myself getting a very dry mouth on occasion. What causes this, and should I be worried?

A. It’s normal to occasionally have a dry mouth if you’re dehydrated or feeling nervous, but a persistently dry mouth over a period of weeks or months, can be a sign of an underlying problem.

A dry mouth can occur when the salivary glands in your mouth don’t produce enough saliva.

This is often the result of dehydration, which means you don’t have enough fluid in your body to produce the saliva you need.

It’s also common for your mouth to become dry if you’re feeling anxious or nervous.

A dry mouth can sometimes be caused by an underlying problem or medical condition, such as:

  • medication – many different medications can cause a dry mouth, including antidepressants, antihistamines and diuretics; check the leaflet that comes with your medicine, or find it in the medicines section to see if dry mouth is listed as a side effect
  • a blocked nose – breathing through your mouth while you sleep can cause it to dry out
  • diabetes – a lifelong condition that causes a person’s blood sugar level to become too high
  • radiotherapy to the head and neck – this can cause the salivary glands to become inflamed (mucositis)
  • Sjögren’s syndrome – a condition where the immune system attacks and damages the salivary glands

You should see your dentist or GP if you have an unusually dry mouth (known as xerostomia) so they can try to determine the cause.

If you see your dentist or GP, let them know about any other symptoms you’re experiencing and any treatments you’re having, as this will help them work out why your mouth is dry.

– For more information visit www.nhsinform.scot.

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