Xerostomia or hyposalivation is named for a condition that causes a dry mouth. Many people think that dealing with a dry mouth is no big deal. But in reality, anyone who has lived through this problem knows just how uncomfortable it can be.
Xerostomia isn’t considered to be a medical disease on its own. Instead, it can be a symptom of another condition. Illnesses like Sjogren’s syndrome, strokes, or Alzheimer’s disease can increase your risk of dry mouth. If you have dry mouth, your mouth can feel sore, sticky, and irritated.
It has been estimated that more than 1 in 10 people suffers from dry mouth. In addition to being very uncomfortable, dry mouth can lead to tooth decay. Saliva works as a natural lubricant and cleanser for your mouth by preventing fungal and bacteria growth. That means that dry mouth can also lead to a higher risk of tooth and gum disease and infections.
Dry mouth is more common in people who take medications for chronic health conditions. Drugs used to treat allergies, depression, pain, anxiety, urinary incontinence, diarrhea, and Parkinson’s disease can lead to dry mouth. Radiotherapy to the head or neck and chemotherapy can also cause this condition.
In most cases, you will need to treat underlying conditions in order to restore your saliva flow. Other options include switching the medication that is causing dry mouth or taking a lower dosage, if possible. Specific home remedies can also help alleviate this cumbersome problem.
Keep reading to discover some simple, yet effective ways to manage dry mouth or xerostomia.
Home remedy 1. Drink More Water
This might seem obvious, but you would be shocked to find out just how many people forget to drink enough water every day. You might even be one of those people! We have all had days when we forget to stay hydrated.
Proper hydration should always be a priority, but it is even more critical if you are dealing with a case of dry mouth. When you are dehydrated, you produce less saliva. To top it off, the saliva that you do provide is thicker and less moisturizing than usual.
Additionally, the water will help keep your gums and mouth hydrated and loosen mucous secretions. Get used to carrying your reusable water bottle with you to have easy access to water. Using a reusable bottle will even save you money in the long run!
Try to drink at least 2 liters of water each day. That is equivalent to half a gallon, or 8 8-oz glasses throughout the day. They call this the “8 by 8 rule”, and it can help you remember how much water you should drink. Some water bottles even come with markings that will tell you how much water you should drink by specific times of the day.
Home remedy 2. Chew Sugar-free Gum
The act of chewing gum or sucking on hard candy can stimulate your salivary glands so that they produce more saliva. It is essential to use sugar-free candy since sugar can increase your risk of tooth decay, cavities, and gum disease. Eating various sugar-loaded sweets throughout the day will also add empty calories to your diet.
Even sugarless candy or gum can soften gums and make them more fragile, so you shouldn’t consume them excessively. Instead, keep a few candies or pieces of gum at hand to provide short-term relief when necessary.
Home remedy 3. Try Acupuncture
Could acupuncture work for dry mouth? Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese medicine practice that can be used to treat many ailments. And research has found that it could potentially be useful to treat dry mouth, too.
In one study, patients who had radiotherapy-induced xerostomia received acupuncture for eight weeks. By the end of the study, these patients reported that the symptoms had improved, as opposed to patients who only received oral care education. The patients in this study showed a quick improvement that was sustained over the course of several weeks.
A different study showed that patients who receive acupuncture alongside radiation for the head a neck cancer had a lower risk of developing dry mouth.
Home remedy 4. Aloe Vera
Aloe vera is an incredibly moisturizing plant, and this effect can also help improve your dry mouth. The juice or gel-like substance inside the aloe vera leaves can be used to relieve xerostomia naturally. Aloe vera also has antimicrobial properties, so it can help prevent cavities and gum infections.
You can buy aloe vera juice or even make your own at home. You can also eat raw pieces of the natural aloe vera leaf. However, you need to make sure to entirely remove the green portion of the leaf, and wash the green “slime” that covers the leaf. This slimy liquid can cause digestive irritation and has even been linked to certain types of cancer after long-term ingestion.
When you are drinking your aloe vera juice, try swishing it inside your mouth before swallowing it. A 2017 study found that an aloe vera-based saliva substitute had better wetting properties than a commercially available product.
Home remedy 5. Green Tea
Green tea has many excellent properties, and it is packed with antioxidants. But in addition to its well-known health benefits, it can also help you manage your dry mouth.
Green tea can stimulate saliva production. A 2015 study compared saliva production in patients with xerostomia. One group of patients received lozenges infused with green tea extract, while another group received xylitol lozenges. By the end of the study, the group that had received the green tea lozenges experienced a significant increase in saliva production.
Another study provided patients with a natural formulation that contained tea catechins – a natural compound found in the Camellia sinensis plant. This formulation also resulted in increased saliva production.
Some brands of green tea lozenges are commercially available. If you can’t access this product or would like a more natural alternative, you can always stick to drinking green tea several times per day.
Home remedy 6. Ginger
The root of the Zingiber officinale plant has powerful sialagogue – meaning that it can stimulate saliva production. Ginger has been used to treat xerostomia for many years, and now scientific evidence backs this natural remedy.
A 2017 study found that a ginger herbal spray was able to increase saliva production in patients with type II diabetes rapidly. The study theorizes that this effect could be a consequence of ginger’s natural anti-inflammatory properties.
In another study, patients with xerostomia were given capsules filled with ginger extract. After two weeks, many patients reported that their symptoms had improved and their saliva production had increased significantly.
You can find many brands of ginger capsules in the market. You can also make your own ginger tea and drink it 3 to 4 times each day.
Home remedy 7. Marshmallow Root
Marshmallow root, or Althaea Officinalis, has been used to treat the symptoms of dry mouth for centuries. The medicinal properties of marshmallow root come from its sap or mucilage. Research has shown that this substance creates a coating over our digestive system, protecting it from irritation and covering wounds and ulcers.
Studies have found that marshmallow root is just as effective as commercially available saliva substitutes. People who suffer from dry mouth can benefit from taking marshmallow root.
Marshmallow root lozenges are commercially available, but you can also make marshmallow root tea using the dry root or tea bags. In this case, try to drink at least 2 to 3 cups of marshmallow root tea per day.
Home remedy 8. Spilanthes
Spilanthes acmella is a medicinal plant found in the tropical regions of India and South America. It has been used to treat toothaches and dry mouth symptoms for a long time. It has many beneficial properties, which include an anesthetic, antifungal, antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and sialagogue properties.
Spilanthes can potentially prevent gum infections and improve saliva production. It might also help heal ulcers. Don’t take Spilanthes if you use diuretic medications since it could increase their effectiveness and lead to dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. You should also avoid Spilanthes if you have prostate cancer since it can alter the production of male hormones.
Home remedy 9. Avoid Caffeine and Alcohol
Alcoholic beverages and coffee are liquids, so they should help relieve dry mouth, right! Actually, wrong.
Substances like caffeine and alcohol can cause your tissues to dry out and become dehydrated. For most people, this isn’t a concern. But if you have dry mouth, consuming these substances can worsen your symptoms.
Similarly, mouthwashes that contain alcohol can also make dry mouth symptoms worse.
Home remedy 10. Eat Softer, Moist Foods
The phrase “soft, moist foods” probably doesn’t sound too appealing. But by simply adding some extra water or broth to your recipes, you could relieve your dry mouth symptoms. Dry foods can irritate your gums and mouth mucous membranes, but moist foods will help soothe and hydrate them.
Try adding soups and vegetable creams into your diet. You can also make certain foods moister – such as vegetable purees, mashed potatoes, pasta sauce, cereals, oatmeals, and smoothies.
You should also avoid spicy, salty, or acidic foods. These foods can make your symptoms worse, and they can irritate your dry mouth, potentially leading to pain and swelling.
Home remedy 11. Brush Your Teeth with a Fluoride Toothpaste
In addition to relieving your dry mouth symptoms, you also need to take good care of your teeth. Saliva is a natural antimicrobial, so it makes sense that xerostomia can lead to tooth decay and oral infections. It can also make bad breath more likely.
Make sure you are brushing your teeth several times each day. It is also very important to use a toothpaste that is formulated to protect your mouth from excessive bacterial growth that could lead to cavities or gum infections.
Home remedy 12. Avoid Antihistamine Medications
Antihistamine medications are the drugs you use to treat allergies. They work by blocking a natural chemical called histamine. This substance is responsible for causing symptoms like a runny nose.
Antihistamines are great for allergies because they dry out your mucous membranes. But they don’t just dry out your nose; they can have the same effect over any other mucous membrane in your body. That means that they can dry out your mouth and worsen the symptoms of xerostomia.
Home remedy 13. Get a Humidifier
Many of us sleep with our mouths open without even realizing it. Having our mouths exposed to the air all night can worsen dry mouth. Sleeping in a too-cold, dry, stuffy bedroom can increase this effect. Air conditioning and heating systems can remove humidity from the air, as well.
If your symptoms are worse when you wake up, or you experience a sore throat or bouts of coughing in the morning, a humidifier could help you. There are many affordable humidifiers in the market, and they all work by adding humidity into the air. They can help relieve the symptoms of dry mouth, and they are also beneficial for other things such as:
- Sinus headaches
- Dry skin
- Cracked lips
- Preventing influenza
- Releasing phlegm
- Reducing snoring
Final Thoughts About Dry Mouth
No one wants to deal with a case of dry mouth. It can be an uncomfortable condition, causing soreness, bad breath, sleeping problems, and taste alterations. It can also lead to rapid tooth decay, cavities, and gum disease.
There are many causes of dry mouth. If the cause of your dry mouth can be treated, this will always be the most effective way to deal with this problem. But if you can’t simply fix your dry mouth, these natural remedies will help you increase your saliva production and relieve your symptoms.
It is not uncommon for people to overlook their oral health. But our mouths and teeth are actually very important to our everyday lives. They help us eat, talk, and even feel confident in our appearance. Treating dry mouth is necessary to maintain your oral health in the long-term.
Andrea, M.D is from Valencia, Venezuela. She is passionate about sexual health and education, and public health and global health. Additionally, she enjoys researching and learning about beauty, skincare, and cosmetic innovations. She has also volunteered in several NGOs in Venezuela. In her free time, Andrea enjoys reading, drinking copious amounts of coffee, making desserts for her family, going to the beach, and spending time with her dog, Dorito.