Symptoms Of Dry Mouth
Also known as xerostomia, dry mouth happens when your mouths salivary glands dont create enough saliva.
While its not a life-threatening condition, dry mouth is a symptom of anxiety which if not taken care of can make life a hassle.
The usual sign of dry mouth is a dry/parched feeling you experience in your mouth.
Other symptoms include cracked lips, dehydrated tongue, bad breath, and dry throat.
If the condition troubles for years, you can notice symptoms like gum disease, tooth decay, and mouth sores that happen because of the lack of saliva.
You see, saliva is responsible for mineralizing teeth. It also helps maintain the health of the soft and hard tissues in your mouth by washing away food particles. In addition, it neutralizes the acid produced by mouth bacteria. All these functions imply dry mouth is a terrible problem for your dental health.
Why Does Stress Cause Dry Mouth
When you feel anxious or stressed, your mouths saliva flow may decrease, which is typical for individuals who take medication. Dry mouth can be a side effect of antidepressants, anti-psychotics, antihistamines, muscle relaxants, and other medications. However, anxiety and its treatments arent the only causes of dry mouth, as mouth breathing can also result in this condition.
Find out other causes of dry mouth as it pertains to stress and anxiety.
Dry Mouths Physical Effects
Dry mouth can be thought of as a lack of saliva in your mouth and can lead to discomfort and problems eating, swallowing, or speaking. It also plays an essential role in your long-term dental health.
Surprisingly, saliva is one of your bodys best tools for preventing oral problems and keeping your mouth moisturized and healthy. It helps maintain and support both hard and soft tissues, including your teeth and gums.
Your saliva is vital to your dental health, so much so that the American Dental Association calls it the bloodstream of the mouth. Because of this, a lack of saliva can disrupt your bodys proper functioning and lead to dental problems.
Saliva helps to:
- Wash out food matter and debris
- Break down food for swallowing and digestion
- Prevent cavities, gum disease, and infection
- Strengthen your enamel with minerals
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Ways To Keep Your Mouth Healthy
Even if you’re dealing with anxiety, you can maintain your oral health by making it a point to brush twice a day, floss daily and have your gums and teeth regularly checked by your dentist. Make sure to inform your dentist if you’re taking medication for anxiety. And if visiting the dentist is a source of anxiety for you, do what you can to make it less stressful, such as scheduling appointments when you won’t be rushed, bringing headphones to listen to music and discussing any concerns with your dentist.
Anxious Behavior And The Stress Response
Anxious behavior activates the stress response, which secretes stress hormones into the bloodstream, where they bring about specific body-wide changes that prepare the body for immediate emergency action.
This survival reaction is often referred to as the fight or flightresponse.
Visit our Stress Response article for more information about it and its many changes.
Some of these changes include:
- Increases blood sugar so that we have an instant boost of energy.
- Stimulates the nervous system so that we are more sensitive and reactive to danger.
- Increases heart rate to circulate blood to areas of the body required to fight or flee.
- Increases respiration to accommodate the increase in heart rate.
- Suppresses the digestive system so that most of the bodys resources are available to fight or flee.
- Suppresses salivation to aid with digestion suppression .
The combination of the above changes can cause a dry mouth.
Consequently, many anxious people experience a dry mouth because of their anxiety and how it activates the stress response.
The more anxious a person is, the more likely it is to experience anxiety symptoms, including dry mouth.
Dry mouth can persist as long as a person is anxious and a stress response has been activated.
Anxious behavior is a common cause of dry mouth.
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Poor Oral Hygiene Leads To Multiple Dental Issues
Stress can affect your oral health indirectly. When youre feeling under the weather, its more likely that you wont pay that much attention to the habits that are part of your daily routine. Poor personal hygiene often accompanies serious disorders such as major depression and psychosis, but even mildly increased stress levels can affect your oral hygiene in a negative way. Its a known fact that we smoke more when stressed, thinking that itll bring us relief. Regardless of the stress youre dealing with, remember that health is a priority. Taking care of yourself will make you feel much better.
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What You Can Do About Dry Mouth Anxiety
Just like there are several reasons for dry mouth, there are several things you can do to help with it. These may not all work for everyone, but one or more should bring you relief.
- Drink more water. This seems simple on the surface, but most Americans dont drink enough water whether they have anxiety or not. We need six to eight glasses of water every day. Drinking enough all the time will help with the feeling of dry mouth when youre anxious.
- Good mouth hygiene. Brushing your teeth regularly and going to the dentist twice a year for check-ups are both important. If you have dry mouth from anxiety, this is a way to prevent any damage being done.
- Chew or suck on something. Something good for you, hopefully. This will keep the saliva flowing in your mouth.
- Breathe through your nose. Anxiety pushes us to mouth breathe, drying it out.
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How To Reduce Anxiety Mouth Symptoms
Sorry to hear you’re dealing with these annoying anxiety mouth symptoms!
While your first trip should be to the dentist’s office to screen out any serious concerns, I think I can help with the anxiousness part! I recently wrote a book with over a hundred different methods for managing anxiety and panic attacks. Give it a read and see if it helps with any of these oral symptoms of anxiety!
Who Is At Risk For Anxiety Disorders
A mix of genetic and environmental factors can raise a persons risk for developing anxiety disorders. You may be at higher risk if you have or had:
- Certain personality traits, such as shyness or behavioral inhibition feeling uncomfortable with, and avoiding, unfamiliar people, situations or environments.
- Stressful or traumatic events in early childhood or adulthood.
- Family history of anxiety or other mental health conditions.
- Certain physical conditions, including thyroid problems and heart arrhythmias .
Anxiety disorders occur more often in women. Researchers are still studying why that happens. It may come from womens hormones, especially those that fluctuate throughout the month. The hormone testosterone may play a role, too men have more, and it may ease anxiety. Its also possible that women are less likely to seek treatment, so the anxiety worsens.
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What Causes Anxiety Disorders
Several things play a role in causing the overactive “fight or flight” that happens with anxiety disorders. They include:
Genetics. A child who has a family member with an anxiety disorder is more likely to have one too. Kids may inherit genes that make them prone to anxiety.
Brain chemistry. Genes help direct the way brain chemicals work. If specific brain chemicals are in short supply, or not working well, it can cause anxiety.
Life situations. Things that happen in a child’s life can be stressful and difficult to cope with. Loss, serious illness, death of a loved one, violence, or abuse can lead some kids to become anxious.
Learned behaviors. Growing up in a family where others are fearful or anxious also can “teach” a child to be afraid too.
Physical Effects Of Dry Mouth
Saliva protects your mouth, and without a steady flow of it, you may be prone to developing cavities and other oral problems. In addition to mineralizing your teeth, saliva maintains the health of your soft and hard mouth tissues by washing away food particles. Moreover, it can neutralize the acids that mouth bacteria produce.
Its crucial to note that stress can weaken your immune system, making you more vulnerable to dental infections due to a lack of saliva, which otherwise provides your body with disease-fighting substances.
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Why Does Anxiety Cause Dry Mouth
Theres a few reasons for this, first of all when our body goes into fight, flight or freeze mode, your body redirects blood, oxygen and water to where its most needed. If youre running away or fighting someone, ensuring the roof of your mouth is moist is probably not a survival priority.
The next reason could be a result of breathing heavily through the mouth. When our brain perceives a threat and our body goes into survival mode, our muscles tense and our breathing quickens as if were about to race or strike out. If were breathing in this way, or hyperventilating for long periods of time, which happens during anxiety attacks, our mouth is naturally going to feel particularly dry.
Dry mouth might also be caused by dehydration or as a side effect of any medication you might be on, so you might want to take these into consideration.
Breathing Through Your Mouth
Breathing through your nose is the healthiest and most efficient way to breathe. But if youre feeling anxious, you may be more likely to breathe through your mouth. You may also breathe less deeply.
If you breathe through your mouth, the air coming in can dry it out. Having your mouth open to breathe can also cause dryness.
When youre very anxious, you may also be more likely to hyperventilate, which is a type of rapid breathing through your mouth. Hyperventilation can cause a dry mouth.
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How Do I Know If My Child Has An Anxiety Disorder
Anxiety-related problems in children share four common features. The anxiety:
- Is typically a fear or fixation that interferes with the ability to enjoy life, get through the day or complete tasks.
- Is puzzling to both the child and parents.
- Does not improve after logical explanations to address the worries.
Oral & Facial Surgery Of Utah Can Help
If youve been experiencing dry mouth for the past few months, then you may have developed cavities and plaque due to a lack of saliva. You will need to consult with a dentist or oral surgeon who can help restore your dental health. The board-certified oral surgeons at Oral & Facial Surgery of Utah are more than happy to help you find relief and answer your questions. Schedule your free consultation today.
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How To Stop The Sensation Of A Dry Mouth
The difficulty in dealing with dry mouth depends primarily on the cause. Dry mouth caused by medication may reqiure a different dose, a different medication, or a different type of medication that can be provided by your doctor or dentist. There are both prescription and non-prescription treatments and washes that increase salivary production.
If you are not currently taking any medication and doctors have ruled out any other causes of dry mouth, its possible that anxiety is solely to blame. In that case, first simply try drinking water and chewing gum – two small behaviors that moisten the mouth. Although this may not treat all anxiety related dry mouth, some people find that the increase in saliva and cool feeling of water against the tongue can be mentally refreshing.
If the cause of your dry mouth appears to be anxiety, and is not related to the medications you are taking to cure it, then the next step is to work on anxiety reduction strategies. For example:
Although medications can also be effective, those that struggle with anxiety related dry mouth will want to talk about their distress with their doctor, to ensure that anything you take for your anxiety wont affect your symptoms.
Dry mouth may be the result of mouth breathing, acid reflux, medications, and several other anxiety-related issues. Identifying the cause is important. Eliminating dry mouth from anxiety typically requires commitment to long term anxiety reduction.
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Consequences Of Dry Mouth
Cavities: You may think that poor brushing and flossing habits is the primary cause of cavity formation, but that distinction actually belongs to dry mouth.
Cavities are holes in your teeth that are formed by bacteria that excrete acids onto the teeth. These acids then eat away at enamel, causing decay. In a healthy mouth, saliva protects against these acids and prevent cavities by washing away harmful bacteria and supporting remineralization.
Dry mouth obviously disrupts this process by not allowing teeth to bathe in saliva, and it can also cause the pH of the mouth drop into the acidic zone, which further promotes cavities by allowing harmful bacteria to multiply. Even a few hours of dry mouth can disrupt the mouths microbiome and increase your chances of a cavity.
Imbalanced oral microbiome: Just like your gut, your mouth has a microbiome that affects your health. When the bacteria in your mouth are balanced, it promotes healing, remineralization, and an overall happy mouth. But when the oral microbiome disrupted due to dry mouth, leading to an overgrowth of bad bacteria and a decrease in the numbers of beneficial bacteria, the risk for infection, cavities, and oral yeast infection goes up.
Mouth sores: Without enough saliva to neutralize the acids in your mouth and hydrate delicate oral tissue, painful mouth sores can occur. These are especially common in cancer patients.
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Is Dry Mouth A Symptom Of Covid
Yes, you can add dry mouth to the growing list of potential Covid-19 symptoms.
As many as 40 percent of people with Covid-19 may experience symptoms of dry mouth or xerostomia during or after the illness, according to a study in the Journal of Dental Research. Some people may develop dry mouth even before any other Covid-19 symptoms.
This is even higher than the number of people who report a loss of taste with Covid-19, says Kevin M. Byrd, DDS, PhD, Anthony R. Volpe Research Scholar & Manager of Oral & Craniofacial Research, Lab of Oral & Craniofacial Innovation American Dental Association Science & Research Institute.
Heres everything you need to know about this symptom, including its connection to Covid and other dry mouth causes.
How To Treat Dry Mouth
Not that youre aware of the symptoms that may identify dry mouth, its important to discuss ways to treat the condition before major issues arise.
Learn to nose breathe: If youre otherwise healthy, theres a good chance that your case of dry mouth is related to mouth breathing. And if youve been mouth breathing for a long timeand have ruled out causes like sleep apnea or allergiesyou may want to make an appointment with a myofunctional therapist.
A myofunctional therapist can work with you to retrain the muscles of your mouth and lips to rest comfortably in a closed position. Your therapist may also work with you to find the root cause of your mouth breathing if youve struggled to uncover it on your own.
Try mouth taping: If youve ever been told that you snore at night, or if you know that youre a mouth breather, mouth taping may be a good option for you.
Mouth taping is exactly what it sounds likethe mouth is taped shut at night to encourage breathing through the nose. If you find that you cant get the tape to stay on overnight, its a good indicator that youre struggling to breathe through your nose and it may be worth speaking with an ear, nose, and throat specialist to find out whyespecially since mouth breathing is a primary cause of dry mouth.
Instead of eating these types of foods, focus on moist, lukewarm dishes, and consider following an anti-cavity diet to keep your mouth healthy while you solve your dry mouth problem.
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Does Stress Affect My Oral Health
Stress impacts the entire body. But many people fail to recognize the impact stress can have on their oral health. How does stress affect my oral health? Since the impacts of stress on the body and mouth arent obvious, regular dental exams and cleanings remain vital to finding these effects of stress and treating them. Whether caused by stress or not, helping people with dental issues is part of what we do at Matthews Family Dentistry.
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How Can I Best Cope With An Anxiety Disorder
There are several steps you can take to cope with anxiety disorder symptoms. These strategies can also make your treatment more effective:
- Explore stress management: Learn ways to manage stress, such as through meditation.
- Join support groups: These groups are available in-person and online. They encourage people with anxiety disorders to share their experiences and coping strategies.
- Get educated: Learn about the specific type of anxiety disorder you have so you feel more in control. Help friends and loved ones understand the disorder as well so they can support you.
- Limit or avoid caffeine: Many people with anxiety disorder find that caffeine can worsen their symptoms.
- Talk to your healthcare provider: Your provider is your partner in your care. If you feel like treatment isnt working or have questions about your medication, contact your provider. Together, you can figure out how to best move forward.
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