Tired of Waking Up with Dry Mouth?

Waking up with dry mouth is not considered serious, but it can lead to other health problems if not addressed. Consider what’s causing it and how best to moisten that dry mouth.

By Sheryl Grassie

A dry mouth is a common condition that can be caused by many different variables. The clinical term for dry mouth is xerostomia (pronounced: zero-sto-me-ah) and refers to a lack of saliva that keeps the mouth and sinuses lubricated. A naturally moist mouth is part of the way we are designed and part of a healthy body. Saliva plays an important role in washing away food particles that can lead to dental decay, as well as mitigating the effects of bacteria in the mouth.

Dry mouth can be accompanied by numerous side effects or lead to comorbid conditions. These may include a sore throat, hoarseness when speaking, accompanying dry sinuses, cracked lips, or burning in the mouth. Dry mouth can lead to tooth decay, gum disease, poor oral health, and mouth sores.

Unhappy girl waking up

What Causes Dry Mouth?

The following are contributing factors in waking up with a dry mouth. Some are simple lifestyle choices and others are complications of medical treatment. Some specific diseases can cause dry mouth. Think about the body being composed of mostly water and how important it is to stay hydrated. The mouth is an extremity, and if there is not enough fluid in the body, the mouth may register this with a lack of saliva. The following conditions can cause you to experience dry mouth.

  • Sjogren Syndrome: An autoimmune disease in which the body attacks the glands that produce tears and saliva causing them not to function, this inhibits saliva production in the mouth and causes dryness.
  • Dehydration: Enough water is crucial to saliva production. A lack can result in dry mouth, especially by morning when you have not replenished fluids for 7 to 9 hours while sleeping.
  • Medications: There are numerous medications that have dry mouth as a side effect. Antihistamines, antidepressants, sleep medications, and cancer drugs to name a few. If you have morning dry mouth, look at the list of side-effects for any medications you are taking. Chemotherapy, and even radiation treatments for cancer, are notorious culprits.
  • Mouth Breathing: Some people naturally sleep with their mouths open and some with them closed. Mouth breathing at night can lead to waking up with a dry mouth, mouth breathing can also be symptomatic of other sleep issues like snoring and sleep apnea.
  • Aging: As we age, our saliva production can naturally decrease. It does not happen for everyone, but a significant number do experience this decrease as they grow older.
  • Smoking: The habit of smoking can dry out the mouth and puts chemicals in the bloodstream that can imbalance the system and result in a dry mouth.
  • Stress: Think about how easily your mouth can dry up when you get anxious. Many people experience it when they have to speak in public or give a talk. Now imagine that that stress can inhibit saliva production in a more chronic way, which results in waking up with a dry mouth.  
  • Alcohol and Drugs: Drinking alcohol or doing recreational drugs can result in a dry mouth in the morning. Alcohol causes dehydration and so do certain recreations drugs. Use of these substances can cause a dehydrating condition that results in a dry mouth overnight.
  • Diabetes and High Blood Sugar: High blood sugar, which is part of diabetes, causes dry mouth. It is common in both type 1 and type 2 diabetes and is believed to be associated with sugar levels, medications, or possibly unknown factors.
  • Salt and Food Additives: I had a friend who constantly complained of dry mouth both day and night. She seemed to always be drinking mineral water to try and hydrate herself. The suggestion was made that she stop drinking them. She did, and to her surprise, her dry mouth completely cleared up. It may have been the minerals in the water causing the problem. Salt, certain chemicals added to foods, and certain minerals react in some people causing dry mouth.

Treatments for Dry Mouth

  • Drink More Water: Staying hydrated is the single most important thing you can do to eliminate dry mouth.
  • Check Your Medications: As mentioned before, check the side effects of your medications. If dry mouth is listed and the problem is severe, talk to your doctor.
  • Chew Gum: This gets the salivary glands going. Some recommendations advocate for sugar free gum or natural gum with xylitol.
  • Xylitol: There are some clinical trials that show xylitol as a promising aid for mouth dryness. It can be found in many forms at your health food store and used in tea, coffee, and cooking.
  • Sleep with Your Mouth Closed: Try sleeping with your mouth closed. If clogged sinuses prevent this, then look into what is causing the congestion.
  • Add Humidity to Your Bedroom: A dry space does nothing to help curtail waking up with a dry mouth. Add humidity to the room where you sleep or better yet, your entire house. 
  • Practice Good Oral Hygiene: Brush and floss and use a mouthwash that is alcohol free, to help create a healthy oral environment. Especially if you experience dry mouth and may not be generating enough saliva to keep your mouth clean, stay focused on regular brushing.

Summary

Waking up with a dry mouth is uncomfortable and unpleasant but not something to worry about if it is only occasional. It may be caused by mouth breathing, medications you are taking, or a health condition. You can rectify the problem by staying well hydrated, limiting salt and food additives, and managing both recreational drugs and medications. If your dry mouth persists, then see your doctor for further help.


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