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why do I have dry mouth

How and Why is My Mouth So Dry? Is It Common?

By Jeffrey W. Cash, DDS

How Did I Get Such a Dry Mouth?

It may surprise you, but dry mouth is a very common condition.  Why people experience it and how it happens are surprising.  Lets take a look at the how and why you may have this happen to you or someone you know.

How Common is Dry Mouth?

The American Dental Association states that the prevalence of dry mouth is very hard to determine because there is limited data on it.  Estimates range between 0.9% to 64.8%  of the U.S. population. However, it is known to approach 100% in certain groups like head and neck cancer survivors.

Senior citizens are often afflicted with dry mouth.  One paper from Journal of the American Dental Association stated dry mouth was present in 30% of seniors.  Think about that for a moment.  In 2019, the population age 65+ was 54.1 million in the United States.  Thirty percent of that is 16.2 million people!  By no means is that a small number!

Even if you are not a senior citizen, dry mouth can happen to you.  Chances are if you have ever been prescribed a medication or take one regularly, dry mouth is a potential side effect.  According to WebMD, more than 400 medications are known to cause dry mouth.  Some are by prescription, but many over-the-counter medicines do as well.  Worse still is that as more medications are added, they can work together to make dryness worse.  

In today’s world, millions of people are treated with prescription medication every day.  Everything from high blood pressure to ADHD medications lend themselves to oral dryness and many who take them must do so to survive.  Simply stopping a medication is not an option for these people.

What Can Happen to Make My Mouth So Dry?

As mentioned above, medications are one of the most common reasons people encounter dry mouth.  As our life expectancy increases, the likelihood one is prescribed medicines also goes up.  This is a major reason senior citizens show such a large percentage of dryness.

Other things that can contribute are a myriad of medical conditions.  Most often, Sjogren’s disease and other autoimmune disorders have oral dryness as a complication.  There are estimated to be 1-4 million sufferers of Sjogren’s syndrome in the United States alone.  And studies show it affects women nine times more than men.  Additionally, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, anemia, cystic fibrosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and Parkinson’s disease have been documented to  present with saliva flow reduction.

What Can I Do?

The first thing is talk to your health care professional.  Having dry mouth may seem like a minor inconvenience, but if not addressed, numerous problems can arise.  Furthermore, it could be a sign of an underlying medical condition you had no idea about.

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