A sticky mouth, unquenchable thirst, and lack of saliva are signs you may have cottonmouth. This condition, also called xerostomia or dry mouth, is appropriately named because it feels like you have a cotton ball on your tongue soaking up every bit of moisture.
Dry mouth is more than uncomfortable. It can cause or exacerbate dental issues. Without enough moisture in your mouth, food particles don’t wash away and your gums struggle to fight off bacteria. And since saliva begins breaking down food while it’s still in your mouth, cottonmouth can hinder digestion, too.
Whether you’re concerned about your health or just want your mouth to stop feeling like the Sahara Desert, you have options. You can prevent or relieve cottonmouth by changing your habits or using simple remedies, or with the help of medications or over-the-counter products designed to treat xerostomia.
How to Prevent Cottonmouth
Dehydration is the simplest cause of cottonmouth, and this type of dry mouth can be solved by changing a few habits. Start by increasing your daily water intake. This simple trick helps keep the rest of your body hydrated too, so it’s win-win.
Next, take a close look at your habits. Many indulgent habits can cause cottonmouth, including consuming sugary foods and drinks, drinking alcohol, and using tobacco or cannabis. Cut back or quit these habits for a few weeks to see if your symptoms improve.
If changing your habits doesn’t work, try chewing on sugar-free gum or sucking on sugar-free lozenges. These products won’t contribute to cottonmouth like their sugary counterparts, and that’s not their only benefit. Many sugar-free gums and lozenges contain xylitol, an artificial sweetener made from birch wood. Xylitol reduces the feeling of dry mouth, and it may help prevent tooth decay as well.
Prevent Cottonmouth Overnight
Many people experience the worst cottonmouth symptoms at night. If you wake up parched and croak “Good morning” to your partner each morning, drink a glass of water with dinner and finish your meal at least one hour before bed. You’ll give your body the time and hydration it needs to digest dinner before you climb into bed. Then, keep a glass of water at your bedside so you can quench your thirst throughout the night if necessary.
If you live in a dry climate, you have an extra hurdle when it comes to keeping your mouth moist. But there’s a solution. Run a humidifier in your bedroom overnight or in any room where you spend a lot of time.
Finally, snoring or sleeping with your mouth open may cause overnight cottonmouth. No matter how much you hydrate throughout the day or humidify the indoor air, you may need to address your sleeping habits before you find relief. Many people don’t realize they sleep with their mouths open, so it can be challenging to uncover this cause. First, try simple ways to encourage your mouth to stay closed at night. Sleep on your side with your head elevated and try taking a shower and using a sterile saline nasal spray before bed to open your nasal passages. If you still wake up with dry mouth, you may want to discuss the problem with your doctor.
Other Ways to Relieve Cottonmouth
Your physician may order x-rays to ensure you don’t have a sinus blockage such as a deviated septum. Your doctor may also recommend a sleep study or weight loss or suggest you dedicate more time to sleep because people tend to snore more when they’re tired.
Unfortunately, even the healthiest sleepers can have cottonmouth — especially if you take medications. More than 400 over-the-counter and prescription medicines, including common ones such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, decongestants, antihistamines, and antidepressants, cause dry mouth. Meanwhile, radiology and other cancer treatments can cause cottonmouth, too.
The good news is you may be able to switch to a medication that doesn’t cause cottonmouth. Tell your doctor about your dry mouth symptoms and ask if you can take an alternative drug to treat your condition without this unpleasant side effect.
If you can’t avoid medications that cause cottonmouth, your doctor may prescribe a sialogogue. This medication helps you produce more saliva, which could counteract dry mouth side effects. However, if you use a sialogogue, your mouth may not be the only part of your body impacted. These medications can cause increased sweating, although an antiperspirant can usually solve it.
You may also need to change your dental routine to relieve dry mouth. Many people use mouthwash after brushing their teeth, but a lot of these products contain alcohol, which dries out the mouth. Consider switching to an alcohol-free mouthwash that’s specifically designed to relieve the symptoms of cottonmouth.
As you can see, you have a lot of options for preventing and relieving cottonmouth. The tips above may provide you with quick relief. And don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor and dentist about solutions. These professionals can help you understand the root cause of your cottonmouth — and prevent your condition from causing other health issues.