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Are You Suffering from Dry Mouth at Night?

What is Dry Mouth?


Dry mouth is the phenomenon where the mouth does not have enough saliva to keep itself moist and wet. It is also called xerostomia, hyposalivation or asialorrhea.

Saliva & its Functions

Saliva is the most important factor in keeping the mouth moist. It is produced by the salivary glands at the bottom of the mouth. It is composed primarily of water with some enzymes, antibodies and mucoproteins, which keep it slimy. Saliva performs the following functions:

  1. It flushes the mouth to remove food debris that may cause bacterial growth.
  2. It decreases the acidity of the mouth and the waste products formed by plaque to prevent further tooth decay.
  3. It contains small traces of fluoride for remineralization of the enamel of the teeth.
  4. It controls the bacteria in the mouth.
  5. It contains amylase to help digest food as we chew it.

Dry mouth is not a disease itself, but may be a sign of certain pathological conditions. The main reason for having it is due to failure of the salivary glands to produce saliva.

Poor production of saliva resulting in dry mouth at night can be due to several reasons. It also leads to certain conditions such as:

  1. Difficulties in chewing, tasting, speaking and swallowing.
  2. Infections of the mouth, because the number of oral bacteria increases up to 10 times the normal amount.
  3. Halitosis or bad breath.
  4. Sore throat.

Dry mouth is considered a significant health problem because it can affect nutrition and general well-being. Almost everyone has experienced it, but when it becomes chronic, dry mouth should be taken into consideration. Over 20% of people experience chronic drying of the mouth, especially at night.

What Causes Dry Mouth at Night?

There are many reasons for dry mouth at night.  Each reason is subdivided into several factors. These include the following:

Lifestyle Factors

Certain habits decrease the production of saliva due to irritation of the salivary glands such as:

  1. Tobacco use or cigarette smoking
  2. Alcohol consumption.
  3. Excessive snoring or mouth breathing- breathing through the mouth causes the moisture to evaporate due to the warm breath.

Nutritional Factors

A reduction in essential vitamins and minerals and also excess in irritating beverages may lead to dehydration or poor production of saliva. These include:

  1. Vitamin deficiency.
  2. Increased caffeine intake- caffeine is a diuretic, which increases urine output. In turn, decreased water in the body leads to decrease in saliva production.


Certain medications produce side effects including drying of the mouth. These drugs include:

  1. Atropine sulfate
  2. Antihistamines
  3. Anticholinergics
  4. Antidepressants
  5. Cold remedies or nasal decongestants
  6. Anxiolytics
  7. Diuretics
  8. Bronchodilators
  9. Chemotherapy drugs
  10. Beta blockers

Cancer Treatment

Radiation therapy for cancer destroys the salivary glands. Radiation therapy near the head may increase the risk for dry mouth.

Illness States

Diseases generally affect the ability of the salivary glands to produce saliva. Most of the illnesses discussed below leads to fluid loss that makes the salivary glands unable to produce saliva.

  1. Dehydration
  2. Diabetes
  3. Fever
  4. Diarrhea
  5. Anemia

Moreover, the following diseases caused by virus also destroy the salivary glands:

  1. Parotitis or mumps
  2. Plummer-Vinson Syndrome
  3. Sjorens syndrome (an autoimmune disease that destroys the salivary glands)

Finally, there are also diseases that require medications that lead to drying of the mouth such as:

  1. Parkinson’s disease
  2. Rheumatoid Arthritis

Surgery or Injury

Injury or accidental trauma to the salivary gland as a result of surgery on adjacent organs may also lead to drying of the mouth at night. Another cause is trauma to the head and damaged nerves in the neck that stimulate the salivary glands to produce saliva. A tumor of the parotid gland that requires the surgical removal of the organ can lead to dry mouth, as this gland is the primary gland that secretes saliva.

Psychological Disturbances

Anxiety kindles the sympathetic nervous system to act in a fight or flight response, as a result, the parasympathetic system is depressed, leading to a decrease in performance of the gastrointestinal system, including the saliva. People with Alzheimer’s disease often have impaired sensory perception including the feeling of dryness in the mouth.

Dry Mouth at Night Associated Symptoms

Because of drying of the mouth, adjacent structures also leads to decrease in moisture. Associated symptoms include:

  1. Burning in the mouth
  2. Sore throat
  3. Cracked lips
  4. Mouth sores
  5. Dry, tough tongue

Because of minimal saliva and increased bacterial growth as a result of diminished salivary gland action, the person may also have bad breath, changes in taste and difficulty swallowing, chewing, and speaking. These lead to poor food intake and inadequate nutrition.


Drying of the mouth at night also presents at different levels. There are people who just feel some sort of drying, maybe because of previous diet or decreased water intake. However, there are also those who suffer extreme dry mouth that may be bothersome at night.

Mild Dry Mouth at Night

Dry mouth can occur as a rough feeling inside the mouth.

Stimulating the glands to produce saliva like chewing gum or just simply wetting the mouth with water can easily manage it.  It does not require special attention because it may be due to nutritional factors.

Moderate Dry Mouth at Night

Moderate drying of the mouth is slightly more uncomfortable, but it may not be bothersome. It may result from a fever that has dehydrated the oral cavity. It may also be resolved by drinking water to relieve the drying.

Severe Dry Mouth at Night

Severe drying of the mouth at night is a special concern for people experiencing it. Some may be awakened at night due to the very dry feeling. Having excessive or very dry mouth at night can become chronic. This may be due to underlying chronic diseases such as Sjorens syndrome or Plummer-Vinson Syndrome, which produces dry mouth. People experiencing extreme dry mouth should seek consultation to determine any underlying problems.

How to Treat Dry Mouth at Night?

There is no definite treatment for dry mouth because it is not a disease on its own. The key for treating the dry mouth is to eradicate the underlying cause. However, simple measures can alleviate the dryness of the mouth. These suggestions could help relieve the symptom:


This is the most affordable way to manage dry mouth at night. Be sure to drink eight to ten glasses of water during the day. Increase intake of fluids by eating fruits rich in water, such as watermelon.

Chew gum

Although chewing gum is not possible during sleeping, you can do this during daytime before and after meals to stimulate the glands to produce saliva. Be sure to chew sugarless gums to prevent dental problems associated with high sugar content.

Choose the best toothpaste

Toothpaste with Biotene decreases bacterial growth in the mouth, as well as relieves dry mouth.


Dentists or physicians may prescribe medications (such as pilocarpine) that stimulate the functioning of the salivary glands or may suggest artificial saliva to moisten the mouth. Ensure monitoring of the heart rate and blood pressure because these medications may affect the circulatory status.

Good oral health

Brush your teeth at least twice a day and use dental floss to remove food debris. Visit the dentist at least every six months for prophylactic treatments for tooth decay.

Remedies for Dry Mouth

The following remedies may also significantly improve the moisture of the mouth, especially at night:

  1. Drink frequently during mealtimes. This will help you to chew and swallow your food. This will also improve the taste of food.
  2. Keep a glass of water at your bedside. Drink water when bothered by the dryness at night. Saliva sprays are also available to keep your mouth moist when awakened at night.
  3. Avoid smoking and alcoholic beverage drinking because this causes dryness of the mouth.
  4. Avoid spicy and acidic foods to prevent further irritation of the oral cavity.
  5. Use room humidifiers to keep the environment moist.
  6. Avoid mouthwashes with alcohol to prevent further dryness.

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