Saliva, or spit as it’s sometimes called, has a really important role to play. In fact, your mouth can’t work properly without it. It helps keep your mouth moist; lubricates the food you eat to make it easier to swallow; begins the process of digestion; and keeps your mouth and teeth clean too.
It’s mainly made up of water, but also contains electrolytes, mucus and enzymes to help keep you healthy. It also has some antibacterial properties.
Saliva is produced by salivary glands in your mouth, and a dry mouth, or xerostomia to give it its medical name, happens when your salivary glands don’t make enough saliva. It can be down to a number of reasons, which we’ll cover in more detail below.
Having a dry mouth every so often is pretty normal, but if it’s constantly dry, it may be a sign of an underlying condition and it’s worth speaking to a doctor about.
Symptoms of a dry mouth
The symptoms of a dry mouth will depend on what is causing it. However, common symptoms that you may notice include:
You may only have a few of these symptoms, but often that is enough to get a dry mouth diagnosis.
What can a dry mouth be a symptom of?
There are many things that cause a persistent or sudden dry mouth. These include:
Medication side effect
One of the most common causes of a dry mouth is medication. Read the information leaflet that comes with the medication you’re taking to see if this is a possible cause, or speak to a GP, as they may be able to recommend an alternative. This includes antidepressants, antihistamines, beta-blockers, diuretics and some epilepsy medicines to name a few.
A dry mouth can be a sign of dehydration, where your body loses more fluid than it takes in. The condition can get serious if not treated. Read more about ithere.
Breathing through your mouth
If you have a cold, or just a tendency to breath through your mouth rather than your nose, it can dry your mouth out
A dry mouth at night while sleeping may be caused by snoring or by breathing with your mouth open. Read more aboutsnoring.
Sjogren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disease and one of its symptoms is a dry mouth and dry eyes. Your white blood cells mistakenly attack your healthy salivary and tear glands. Other symptoms to look out for includedry skin, a drycough, joint pain, joint stiffness or swelling andfatigue.
Cancer treatments may result in damage of the salivary glands, leading to a dry mouth. With chemotherapy, normal saliva production will return when treatment stops. With radiotherapy, a dry mouth may be temporary or permanent.
Nerve damage in the neck or head can lead to mouth dryness. The damage may stop the salivary glands from working properly.
If you have undiagnosed diabetes or badly controlled diabetes, you may have a dry mouth. Other symptoms to look out for include excessive thirst, unintentionalweight lossand blurred vision.
Alzheimer disease is a chronic neurodegenerative disease and the most common cause of dementia. People with the condition are more prone to a dry mouth because they may not drink enough water, and it generally affects the older generation, who are more likely to have a dry mouth.
A dry mouth can occur when you feel stressed, nervous or upset.
A dry mouth can be a symptom of a thyroid problem.
A dry mouth may also be a result of:
This is not a full list of causes. Speak to a GP who can investigate the cause of your dry mouth.
What should you do if you have a dry mouth?
If you think that you may have an underlying condition causing your dry mouth, then it is a good idea to speak to a doctor for more advice and information.
With Push Doctor, you can see a GP online while you are at home, out and about or at work. You can do this from any device, such as a smartphone or laptop. The doctor will listen to your symptoms during a video consultation and recommend the right treatment that will ease your symptoms as quickly as possible.
They will be able to look into any medication you’re taking to see if that could be the cause, or investigate any underlying conditions you may have. Once the underlying condition is treated, your symptoms, in most cases, should clear up.
There are a few dry mouth home remedies that you can try too. You can, for example, chew sugar free gum because this stimulates saliva production, or suck on a hard boiled sweet. Make sure you take regular sips of water too, to keep yourself hydrated. You can also cut down on alcohol or caffeinated drinks, as they can lead to dehydration.
Medication for dry mouth
Gels, sprays and lozenges are available that may help with your dry mouth. Speak to a pharmacist or doctor about which is most suitable for you.
If other methods do not work, a doctor may prescribe a saliva substitute called pilocarpine hydrochloride. It stimulates your glands to produce more saliva. It does have some side effects, which a doctor will explain to you before prescribing any medication.
How can Push Doctor help?
You can see a doctor about your dry mouth at a time that suits you. Our doctors are available seven days a week. They can offer you the diagnosis, advice and treatment you may need. They can also refer you to a specialist for further investigation and tests, if needed.
NHS - trained and registered doctors
Every one of our doctors is registered with the General Medical Council and can be found on the NHS National Performers List, so you know you are only ever receiving the best possible care and advice.
They are experienced in treating a wide range of conditions, and can help with almost everything your regular GP could in a physical surgery. You can meet some of our doctors here.
Push Doctor also has an in-house Medical team, who support our doctors day in, day out, and enable our doctors to do what they do best. They are also responsible for the ongoing training and development of doctors on our platform.
They are the foremost authority in our industry, assessing health providers' ability to provide people with safe, effective, compassionate and high-quality care – be they offline or online doctors.
Push Doctor is registered with the CQC under the name 'Push Dr Limited', with the registration number 1-5345986073.
Our most recent inspection took place in May 2019, concluding that the service we provide is safe, effective, caring, responsive and well-led – gaining a 'Good' rating overall. You can read the report in full on our CQC profile.
Same day prescriptions
Our NHS-trained GPs can, if appropriate, issue prescriptions online following a consultation. Once your consultation is complete, our team will search for the closest pharmacy to you which has your medication available. We'll then send you a text when your prescription is ready to collect.
To collect your medication, simply hear to the nominated pharmacy to collect and pay for your prescription. You will need to take a valid form of ID to show the pharmacist when you arrive. This process is almost always done within the same day of your consultation.
Instant fit (sick) notes
Our GPs can send a sick/fit note directly to you if necessary following an online consultation. These can be sent directly by email or first-class post.
Fit notes include recommendations about how and when you'll be able to return to work or education, or whether you're able to return to work with amended duties (e.g no heavy lifting or reduced hours). They can also contain detailed advice about managing your medical issue in the workplace.