Why Dry Mouth Hurts Oral Health

Dry mouth is a condition in which the mouth does not produce enough saliva to keep it moist and lubricated. While occasional dry mouth may not seem like a cause for concern, chronic dry mouth can have serious implications for your oral health. Luckily, there are ways you can prevent and manage this condition to better your oral health.

Why Dry Mouth Hurts Oral Health

Saliva: Nature’s Defense Mechanism

Saliva plays a crucial role in maintaining oral health by performing a variety of functions:

  • Moistening and lubricating the mouth makes it easier to speak, chew, and swallow.
  • Washing away food particles and debris helps to prevent plaque buildup and tooth decay.
  • Neutralizing acids in the mouth can erode tooth enamel and lead to cavities.
  • Delivering essential minerals such as calcium and phosphate to the teeth helps to strengthen and remineralize enamel.

Why Dry Mouth Hurts Oral Health

If you don’t know what dry mouth can do to your mouth, it is hard to understand why it is a big deal. 

Increased Risk of Tooth Decay and Cavities

Without adequate saliva flow to wash away food particles and neutralize acids in the mouth, the risk of tooth decay and cavities significantly increases. Bacteria thrive in a dry environment, leading to the accumulation of plaque and the breakdown of tooth enamel. Over time, this can also result in cavities and other oral health problems.

Gum Disease and Oral Infections

Dry mouth can also increase the risk of gum disease and oral infections. Saliva helps to keep the gums healthy by washing away bacteria and debris that can contribute to inflammation and infection. Without enough saliva, bacteria can multiply, leading to gum disease, periodontal infections, and other oral health issues.

Difficulty Speaking and Swallowing

Dry mouth can make it hard to speak and swallow comfortably, leading to discomfort and frustration. Without adequate lubrication, the mouth may feel dry and sticky. So, it becomes difficult to articulate words and move food smoothly through the throat. This can impact your ability to communicate effectively and enjoy meals without discomfort.

Bad Breath

One of the most common side effects of dry mouth is bad breath. Saliva helps to cleanse the mouth and remove odor-causing bacteria. When saliva production is reduced, bacteria can proliferate, leading to foul-smelling breath. Chronic dry mouth can be embarrassing and impact your confidence in social and professional settings.

Causes of Dry Mouth

Knowing the cause of your dry mouth can also help you seek the appropriate treatments. 


Certain medications, including antihistamines, decongestants, antidepressants, and diuretics, can cause dry mouth as a side effect. These medications may interfere with saliva production or reduce saliva flow, leading to chronic dry mouth.

Medical Conditions

Medical conditions such as diabetes, Sjögren’s syndrome, HIV/AIDS, and Parkinson’s disease can affect saliva production and contribute to dry mouth. Other factors, such as radiation therapy to the head and neck, hormonal changes, and autoimmune disorders, can also cause or exacerbate dry mouth.

Lifestyle Factors

Certain lifestyle factors, such as smoking tobacco or using electronic cigarettes, can contribute to dry mouth by reducing saliva production and irritating the oral tissues. Alcohol consumption and caffeine intake can also have a drying effect on the mouth. This can also worsen dry mouth symptoms.