Submitted by Jeff Reynolds, DMD, Delta Dental.
Experiencing Dry Mouth Could Be an Indicator of Other Health Issues
Dry mouth can be caused by many things – dehydration, stress, smoking, aging or exercise – but what if it’s trying to tell you something about your general health?
Dry mouth – a condition in which your salivary glands cannot produce enough saliva to keep your mouth lubricated – can cause discomfort, and in some cases, is an indicator of other existing health issues.
- COVID-19: Dry mouth has been a symptom in as much as 60 percent of COVID-19 cases in the prodromal symptom phase which occurs between the onset of initial symptoms and the full development of the disease. Dry mouth occurs when the virus attacks the oral linings in the mouth. Patients may even develop dry mouth days ahead of displaying fever, sore throat, and other common symptoms.
- Diabetes: Poorly controlled or untreated diabetes can result in dry mouth, making a dry mouth a diagnostic clue for patients. When the symptom is paired with excessive thirst and frequent urination, there’s a chance undiagnosed diabetes is the culprit. High blood sugar, which often leads to drying of the mucus membranes and lack of hydration which can come with diabetes, are what cause dry mouth as a symptom of the condition.
- Nerve damage: After an injury causing nerve damage to the head or neck area, dry mouth can arise as a side effect. Nerve damage can also occur during surgery. Nerves carry messages between the brain and the salivary glands and when these nerves are damaged, they may not be able to signal the salivary glands to function as they normally do.
- Heart attack: Dry mouth is one of the many possible symptoms of a heart attack. While this may not have a direct association with heart attacks or heart disease, if chest pain follows exertion and dry mouth persists, it could be a sign of an underlying heart condition.
- Dry mouth is typically more common among seniors, as it’s often a side effect of medications or radiation therapy for cancer patients, but can arise in any age group.
Individuals should watch out for dryness or stickiness in the mouth, bad breath, dry tongue, a changed sense of taste, sore throat, or thick saliva. These symptoms can result in an increased risk of cavities, gum disease, and infections such as thrush – a fungal infection in the mouth that can cause a loss of taste. These symptoms can also indicate the presence of underlying health issues. If you notice any of these symptoms persisting more than a few days, it’s time to make an appointment to consult with your dentist.
For more information about your oral health, visit Delta Dental of Washington’s blog.
Jeff Reynolds, DMD is a Delta Dental of Washington member dentist and serves as the Dental Care & Dental Director for Community Health Care (www.commhealth.org).