Dry Mouth & Anxiety - Causes, Side Effects & What You Can Do

Dry Mouth & Anxiety - Causes, Side Effects & What You Can Do
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Dry Mouth & Anxiety - Causes, Side Effects & What You Can DoClinical Content Reviewed by Dr. Jay Khorsandi, DDS
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Table of Contents

  1. Can Anxiety Cause Dry Mouth?
  2. Causes
  3. Side Effects
  4. Treatment & Prevention
  5. Home Remedies
  6. Frequently Asked Questions
  7. Resources for Anxiety
  8. References

Dry mouth describes a condition in which your mouth doesn’t have enough moisture because of an inadequate supply of saliva. Many factors, including some that are psychological, can cause or contribute to the condition.

Any issue or complication that hampers your salivary glands can cause dry mouth. For saliva to flow at a healthy rate, these glands must function well.

You may experience the following signs or discomforts when your salivary glands aren’t working as they should:

  • Burning sensation in your mouth
  • Sticky saliva
  • Bad breath
  • Dry mouth, dry throat and dry tongue
  • Discomfort when chewing, swallowing, or speaking
  • Inability to keep previously fitting dentures in place
  • Change of taste

Can Anxiety Cause Dry Mouth?

Anxiety may be a psychological problem, but it can also affect your physical health. Dry mouth is one way.
Like depression and stress, anxiety can cause noticeable dryness of the lips and the mucus membrane that lines the inside of the mouth. Dry mouth can also occur when you’re taking certain anti-anxiety drugs.

What Causes a Dry Mouth When Anxious?

Anxiety makes you fearful, and your body’s response to fear can inhibit production of saliva in the salivary glands.

Researchers believe that certain pathways in the brain are involved in the impediment of saliva production when you have anxiety.

Side Effects of Dry Mouth

Saliva plays such an important role in your well-being that its deficiency can cause serious complications. By keeping the tissues and environment inside your mouth moist, you indirectly protect yourself from severe discomforts, dental issues and other health complications.

Conversely, dry mouth can cause pain and health problems that may adversely impact your quality of life. These include:

  • Plaque buildup and gum disease
  • Oral infections
  • Nutritional deficiency when you have difficulty chewing and swallowing
  • Poor nutrition from insufficient digestive enzymes in the mouth
  • Mouth sores

Treatment and Prevention

There are several dry mouth remedies available to avoid severe health problems and discomforts that can impact your everyday living. Comprehensive treatment entails these key components:

  • Resolving the root cause (in this case, you should seek out professional help to treat your psychological problem)
  • Restoring salivary flow in the mouth (you can see your dentist or physician for this)
  • Treating any dental/oral problems resulting from dry mouth

Treatment options for dry mouth include:

  • Mouth rinses, such as those containing xylitol
  • Artificial saliva
  • Oral moisturizing spray
  • Drugs that stimulate saliva production, such as Salagen, to treat severe cases of dry mouth

You should also get a dental exam if you have dry mouth. Your dentist may suggest the following treatments for oral issues:

  • Prescription drugs for oral fungal or bacterial infections
  • Use of denture adhesives and relining of poorly fitting dentures if caused by dry mouth
  • Prescription-grade fluoride to prevent tooth decay
  • Anti-tooth decay mouthwash

Also, you shouldn’t consume products that may cause dryness and irritation your mouth. These include:

  • Caffeinated beverages
  • Alcohol, including mouthwashes and rinses that contain it
  • All tobacco products
  • If anti-anxiety medication causes dryness in your mouth, see your doctor about alternative remedies or better ways to cope
  • Any drug that can worsen your condition, including over-the-counter antihistamines
  • Spices or too much salt
  • Sugary or acidic foods and dry mouth can accelerate tooth decay

Home Remedies for Dry Mouth

There are lifestyle changes and home remedies you can incorporate in your everyday living to relieve dry mouth discomforts. Some effective options include:

  • Keep your mouth wet by sipping a little water multiple times throughout the day (alternatively, use sugar-free drinks)
  • Drink fluids while eating to ease chewing or swallowing discomfort
  • Lubricate your lips every few hours
  • Chew sugar-free gum
  • Use over-the-counter artificial saliva
  • Try to breath with your nose instead of mouth, as much as possible
  • Use a humidifier to moisten their air at night

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is dry mouth a symptom of anxiety?
Yes, dry mouth is one of the many possible symptoms of anxiety. However, not all anxiety patients experience dry mouth. Also, reduced saliva in the mouth can result from causes other than psychological. These include medication, chemotherapy, tobacco and alcohol consumption, or nerve damage.
Why does anxiety give me dry mouth?
Anxiety can interfere with the function of your salivary glands, which make saliva. With saliva production reduced, you experience dryness in your mouth and other discomforts.
Does anxiety cause dry mouth and thirst?
Anxiety can cause dry mouth, and the dryness may feel like thirst. However, the effect is different from dehydration, which is the lack of enough water in your body.
Does anxiety cause dry throat?
Sometimes, anxiety can cause dry throat, indirectly. By inhibiting the production of saliva, the condition causes dryness throughout your mouth. There won’t be enough saliva to moisten your throat, causing soreness and hoarseness.

Resources for Anxiety

Any mental or emotional instability can negatively impact your family or professional life and steal your joy. If you have anxiety, there’s a ton of resources you can utilize to learn about effective coping strategies or getting professional help.

Some practical options include videos on YouTube, podcasts and phone apps.

YouTube Channels for Anxiety

Are you looking to hear relatable stories directly from people struggling with anxiety like you? YouTube channels are one place to find videos that address mental health issues and strategies to ease your symptoms. Examples include:

  • Anxiety United: On this channel, Billy Cross documents his anxiety struggles and coping strategies through various activities, including travel.
  • Kati Morton: A licensed therapists talks about mental disorders in short YouTube videos.
Podcasts for Anxiety

Podcasts for anxiety take various forms. Some offer coping tips from certified experts, while others share relatable struggles with poor mental health. Check out these ones:

  • The Anxiety Guy:  In his downloadable podcasts, a former anxiety victim shares his recovery strategies and offers action-oriented stress management coaching.
  • The Anxious in Austin: Two experts in cognitive behavioral therapy share insights into common anxiety disorders. Their podcasts also cover treatment options for the mental disorder.
Anxiety Apps

Software can provide quick access to coping assistance and tips between your CBT sessions. Here are some anxiety applications worth exploring:  

  • Calm: This website focuses on stress and anxiety reduction. It addresses sleep quality and self-improvement techniques.
  • iBreathe: Download this app if you need help with anxiety management through breathing exercises. People experiencing insomnia or sleep deprivation can also benefit from this digital guide.

References

Dry Mouth. (February 2018). Mayo Clinic.

Relationship Among Perceived Stress, Xerostomia, and Salivary Flow Rate in Patients Visiting a Saliva Clinic. (March 2018). Clinical Oral Investigations.

Xerostomia (Dry Mouth). (February 2021). American Dental Association.

Dry Mouth (Diagnosis & Treatment). (February 2018). Mayo Clinic.

Disclaimer: This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to serve as dental or other professional health advice and is not intended to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any condition or symptom. You should consult a dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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