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Dry mouth at night: Symptoms, Causes, and treatment

29 July 2022by Shiv

Have you often felt some grittiness in your mouth at night? Or do you frequently need to drink water at night to keep your mouth moist? These might be the symptoms of xerostomia or dry mouth, which occurs due to inadequate production of saliva by your salivary glands. The condition is quite troublesome and disturbs your peaceful sleep as the symptoms get exaggerated at night. If this occurs regularly, you should see your dentist and get proper treatment as this condition may lead to problems in your day-to-day life during eating, speaking, and your overall general and oral health.

What are the tell-tale signs of dry mouth?

If you face any of these troubles at night, you might be having a dry mouth

  • A feeling of grittiness or stickiness in your mouth at night
  • Thick and viscous saliva that seems like sputum
  • Halitosis or bad breath
  • Trouble while speaking, or eating
  • Sore throat
  • Problem in wearing dental prosthetic appliances
  • Difficulty and pain on swallowing, or even speaking
  • Dry tongue
  • Chapped lips


What are the causes of dry mouth at night?

Saliva is a crucial component of your mouth as it helps in keeping your oral mucosa moist. It is also an important factor during digestion and keeps your teeth and gums healthy by flushing away the bacteria from your mouth. Any condition that reduces saliva leads to dehydration which ultimately leads to dry mouth.

  • Stress: It can activate your sympathetic nervous system, which reduces the secretions from salivary glands.
  • Advancing age: The amount of production of saliva gradually keeps on decreasing with advancing age. It drops down to merely 40% beyond the age of 65 years.
  • Nasal Blockage: If there is any obstruction in your nasal cavity, it will not allow you to breathe via the nose, and you will be compelled to breathe by your mouth. This excess exposure to air will eventually dry out your mouth. The condition worsens at night because you cannot make any active efforts to breathe via the nose, and passive respiration occurs exclusively by mouth.
  • Drugs: A significant number of prescribed drugs are known to cause a dry mouth such as antihypertensives, antihistaminics, antidepressants, and anti-anxiety drugs.
  • Diabetes: Dry mouth is a common manifestation of high blood sugar levels. People with diabetes are also known to produce less saliva than non-diabetics.
  • Sjogren syndrome: It is an autoimmune condition where your body’s immune system starts attacking its own organs. The primarily affected organs are salivary glands, and their destruction leads to decreased production of saliva.
  • Chemotherapy and radiation: Both are known to cause considerable damage to the salivary glands. The saliva becomes thick and viscous, which is unable to flush the mouth and keep it moist. This is, however, only a transient effect of therapy and resolves by itself.
  • Nerve Damage: Facial nerve is responsible for the parasympathetic supply of salivary glands (except Parotid gland). If it is damaged due to any reason, the sympathetic action will act unopposed and will lead to dry mouth.
  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea: It occurs when the muscles of your throat fall backwards during sleeping and obstruct the passage of air. This leads to breathing via mouth to enable more air to go in as a compensation measure but causes dry mouth due to exposure to outside. It also causes loud snoring. 


How can you treat dry mouth at home?

Dry mouth, though troublesome, is not a fatal condition. It is short-lived and usually resolves spontaneously or with simple home remedies. However, it may be just the tip of the iceberg, indicating some bigger underlying problem. Dry mouth also increases the risk of dental cavities which can become a severe problem. In any case, you should visit your dentist and get yourself thoroughly assessed.


Some simple remedies can save you from the troubles of dry mouth. 

  • Hydration: Drink plenty of water and don’t let your mouth dry out. Whenever you feel a sensation of grittiness in your mouth, drink a glass of water. Keep a water bottle close while sleeping.
  • Say no to Alcohol: Avoid the use of alcohol-containing mouthwashes or alcohol consumption per se because alcohol in any form is injurious for your oral health.
  • Use a humidifier: It would be great if you can install a humidifier in your room so that even if your mouth is exposed to outside, the moisture in the air will prevent dry mouth.
  • Limit caffeine: Caffeine-containing drinks can cause dry mouth. Keep track of the amount of caffeine intake and keep it on the lower side as much as feasible.
  • Chewing gums: Chewing gums are a potent remedy of dry mouth. They keep your salivary glands active and hence, your mouth healthy and moist. Make sure to use sugarless gums and candies, especially if you have diabetes because excess blood sugar is itself a trigger for dry mouth.
  • Avoid unprescribed drugs intake: Many of the drugs causing dry mouth, such as antihistamines are available over-the-counter. Do not take them without the prescription from a registered medical practitioner, or take them only when absolutely necessary.


How will a doctor treat dry mouth?

A dentist can help you with dry mouth. Medical management will include:

  • Drugs stimulating the production of saliva such as pilocarpine or cevimeline
  • A good fluoride toothpaste to prevent cavities and keep your teeth strong
  • Saliva-stimulating lozenges: These are easily available, simple lozenges that can help in moisturising your oral mucosa.
  • Products to moisturise your mouth: These can be in the form of mouthwash, mouth rinse, or artificial saliva that will lubricate your mouth


What problems can dry mouth cause?

  • The most common sequelae of dry mouth are bad breath and tooth decay
  • Disruption of oral mucosa leading to cramps and chips on lips, angles of the mouth and oral cavity.
  • Malnutrition due to inability to eat properly
  • Sore mouth
  • Superimposed fungal or yeast infection leading to a condition known as oral thrush.


Health should be your utmost priority, and even minor problems such as dry mouth should not be neglected. A quick look by a professional will do no harm and will also protect you from any harm in the future. So if you are noticing any such symptoms, feel free to get yourself assessed by an experienced dentist in High Wycombe at Conway House Dental practice, your one-stop destination for all your dental issues. Call us to book your consultation today! 

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