Dry mouth—it’s a discomfort that we all experience from time to time, usually when we’re under stress. It’s easy to relieve with a drink of water, and it typically disappears as soon as you get through the big presentation, the family squabble or whatever it was that set your nerves on edge. That is, unless you’re among the 30 million or so Americans suffering from chronic dry mouth (the medical term is xerostomia). These unlucky folks have little to no saliva in their mouths on a regular basis, so they are always parched, their tongues may feel hot and swollen and they often have really bad breath. For help with dealing with chronic dry mouth, our editors turned to Mark Breiner, DDS, a holistic dentist in Trumbull, Connecticut, and author of Whole-Body Dentistry: A Complete Guide to Understanding the Impact of Dentistry on Total Health (Quantum Health).
First, let’s discuss why getting rid of chronic dry mouth is so important. Having a parched mouth can lead, either directly or indirectly, to a host of health problems, some of which are serious. You likely never thought about it, but your body normally produces about 0.75 to 1.5 liters of saliva each day. Saliva is loaded with minerals that cleanse the teeth and gums. So chronic dry mouth raises your risk for periodontal disease, which seems logical—and periodontal disease, in turn, may elevate your risk for heart disease, a health concern on a whole different level. We also need saliva in order to fully taste our food. Chronic dry mouth can affect how much we enjoy meals. We also need saliva to swallow and break down our food properly, so chronic dry mouth can cause digestive problems. Plus, it’s easier to talk when your mouth and throat are well-lubricated.
It’s decidedly not normal for your mouth to constantly feel like a desert, but there are numerous reasons why it might happen. For instance, poor lifestyle choices (specifically, smoking and excessive drinking of alcohol) can dry out your mouth, as can disease, including diabetes. It’s rare, but chronic dry mouth can also be a symptom of an autoimmune disorder called Sjögren’s syndrome. But the most common cause of chronic dry mouth, by far, is medication. Dry mouth is listed as a side effect of more than 1,800 different prescription drugs and also of many over-the-counter (OTC) medications. About one-third of patients who are taking three or more prescription drugs are likely to suffer from dry mouth. So, if you suffer from dry mouth and take medication, check with your doctor to see if switching to a different drug or making a lifestyle change might reduce—or eliminate—your symptoms.
No matter the cause of your dry mouth, there is a natural dry-mouth remedy that is blowing away the competition. A New York University College of Dentistry study published in The Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA) found that using OraMoist, a self-dissolving, muco-adhesive patch that’s slightly smaller than the size of a dime and sticks onto any oral mucosal surface (such as the roof of your mouth or the inside of your cheek), leads to a significant increase in salivary flow among dry-mouth sufferers after just two weeks of daily use. Another study, from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel, backs up these findings—and also found OraMoist to be twice as effective as a leading dry-mouth mouthwash.
The OraMoist patch moistens the mouth while simultaneously stimulating saliva production with a blend of natural ingredients, including citric acid, lemon flavor, calcium carbonate and xylitol. These ingredients are time-released, so the effects of one patch last up to four hours. Other OTC products on the market for dry mouth (including mouthwashes, sprays and gels) must be used every 20 minutes to get the same effect. Patch users have reported greater relief the longer they used the patch, so it also appears to have a cumulative benefit. A pack of 16 OraMoist patches, enough for five days if you use three a day, costs about $13.
According to Dr. Breiner, the patch can bring welcome relief, but it should be considered a temporary solution. So be sure to also talk to your doctor to see whether you can get rid of dry mouth altogether.
Dry mouth is often a sign that something in your body is out of balance, said Dr. Breiner. For example, a disease, lifestyle habit or drug could be the cause. He believed that getting to the root of the problem—rather than just covering it up—could have a major impact on your odds of living a long and healthy life.