Written by: Bonnie Feldman, DDS, MBA, Anna Simon, Ellen M. Martin
Dry mouth (or xerostomia) is a common symptom of certain autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, particularly prevalent in Sjogren’s Syndrome, Lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and scleroderma. Other causes of dry mouth include medication use, mouth breathing, and nerves or stress. Dry mouth may increase the chance of developing dental decay, demineralization of teeth, tooth sensitivity, and/or oral infections.¹ We want you to feel like your best self, so we did the research on how lifestyle and food can help remedy dry mouth. Here are our best tips:
Breathe through your nose
Breathing through your mouth can exacerbate dry mouth symptoms. Although you can’t avoid mouth breathing during activities like talking, focus on breathing through your nose whenever possible. If congestion is preventing you from breathing through your nose, especially at night (snoring may be a sign of mouth breathing), try a nasal rinse before bed or use a humidifier at night. Stay tuned for a post on tips to improve your oral posture. Potassium supplementation can help with nasal congestion, too. Make sure you are keeping hydrated, especially overnight. It’s also a good idea to chew with your mouth closed, both because it introduces less air into your mouth and because it’s polite.
Chewing gum or sucking on candy stimulates saliva production. Opt for sugar-free gum, candies, or lozenges to provide temporary dry mouth relief. Sugar-free is key because excess sugar can lead to tooth decay.
Try a humidifier at night
Humidifiers add moisture to the air and can help moisten your mouth and nasal passages, especially if you breathe through your mouth at night. Make sure you are drinking enough water over the course of the day and at bedtime.
Find the right mouthwash
Our mouths contain a balance of good and bad microorganisms. Mouthwashes like Listerine kill the bad bacteria in the mouth–AND the good bacteria. Alcohol is also a drying agent and can make your dry mouth worse. Avoid mouthwashes that use alcohol and use a mouth rinse like Elementa instead that uses nano silver particles to disrupt plaque buildup. Or try Biotene, a non-alcohol mouthwash especially for dry mouth.
Take probiotics and prebiotics
As a sufferer of dry mouth myself, I have found that a combination of pre- and probiotics increases my saliva production. Potential reasons include balancing pH, enhancing salivary enzymes, and improving viscosity. I use Daily Dental prebiotics, and probiotics by Hyperbiotics and BLIS.
Don’t forget to exercise
Although exercise may dry your mouth out even more, new research suggests that moderate exercise is good for oral health. When working out, keep a bottle of water (perhaps with magnesium or potassium) with you to stay hydrated. Check out our post on unusual aspects of oral care here.
Practice good oral hygiene!
Most people know you should brush your teeth (and tongue) twice a day, floss every day, and go to the dentist every six months, but there’s more to oral health than just the bare minimum. Here are 3 less-obvious tips for maintaining long-term oral health. Read more in-depth on the oral microbiome here to work towards achieving optimal oral well-being.
Avoid inflammatory foods
Inflammatory foods increase inflammation in the body, tend to exacerbate disease symptoms, and can lead to worse dry mouth. These foods include processed meats, sodas and sugary beverages, salty snacks, packaged sweets, and refined carbohydrates. Excess salt in particular can exacerbate dry mouth.
Eat anti-inflammatory foods
On the other hand, anti-inflammatory foods help to reduce inflammation in the body and may reduce symptoms, including helping your dry mouth; these are foods you should focus on including in your diet. Luckily, there are many anti-inflammatory foods, including turmeric, ginger, green leafy vegetables, berries, flax and chia seeds, walnuts and almonds, olive oil, and salmon.
Check out our guide to food therapy to learn more about nutrition and how to experiment with food as therapy.
The BC Cancer Agency has nutritional guidelines for managing dry mouth.
- Eat soft foods like cooked vegetables, soups, smoothies, and juicy fruits.
- Use sauces, dressings, and oils to soften foods.
- Avoid dry or sticky foods like bread, crackers, and peanut butter which are hard to swallow without enough saliva.
- Salty foods absorb moisture and should be avoided. Foods high in sodium include soy sauce, cured meats, chips and other salty snacks, soups, and any processed foods as well as most dishes at restaurants. Cooking your own food is the easiest way to control for sodium content. Look for seasoning blends that don’t contain salt, or use your favorite herbs and spices to add flavor to food instead.
Drink water, not caffeine or alcohol
It’s always a good idea to avoid soda, sugary drinks, and alcohol, opting for water instead. However, if you suffer from dry mouth, the beverages you consume are particularly important. Sip on water throughout the day to keep a consistent flow of liquid in your mouth. However, avoid bubble water, as it is acidic and can make dry mouth worse. Both caffeinated beverages and alcohol can try out your mouth. Try switching to decaffeinated coffee or tea instead to boost your energy.
We hope these tips help you remedy dry mouth and feel ready to conquer the day. What do you do to fight dry mouth? Let us know in the comments!
- Xerostomia (Dry Mouth). 2018. Retrieved from https://www.ada.org/en/member-center/oral-health-topics/xerostomia