Diabetes And Dry Mouth: What You Need To Know

Most of us don’t stop to really appreciate our saliva as much as we should—at least, not until it’s gone. But once it’s gone, it’s hard to think about anything else.

Dry mouth makes it hard to swallow, gives you a bad taste in your mouth and bad breath, and it may even make your lipstick stick to your teeth. (Gasp!) But dry mouth can lead to more dire health issues, and people with diabetes are at an increased risk of dealing with it. Here’s what you need to know:

Photo: AdobeStock/mantia/82
Photo: AdobeStock/mantia/82

What is dry mouth?

Xerostomia is the clinical name for dry mouth, and it’s quite simply when you don’t produce enough saliva to keep your mouth healthy and comfortable. This puts you at risk for infections and other complications.

Diabetes medications can cause dry mouth as can high blood sugar. Dehydration, cancer treatment, smoking, and the aging process can also contribute to dry mouth.

Photo: AdobeStock/Fotofuchs
Photo: AdobeStock/Fotofuchs


The first symptom of dry mouth is pretty obvious: having a dry mouth. But there are not-so-obvious symptoms as well:

  • Irritation at the sides of your mouth and/or inflammation of the gums
  • Difficulty with talking, chewing, and swallowing
  • Chapped lips
  • Frequent mouth sores or infections
  • Chronic bad breath
  • Dry or sore throat
  • Thick or sticky saliva
  • Strange sense of taste
  • Difficulty wearing dentures

These issues may not seem like such a big deal, but someone who has experienced dry mouth knows how frustrating they can be. Stubborn bad breath alone would be a huge (and embarrassing) pain. But saliva plays an important role, and it causes more than just annoyance when it’s in short supply.

Photo: AdobeStock/vladimirfloyd
Photo: AdobeStock/vladimirfloyd

Importance of Saliva

Your saliva helps keep your teeth healthy by neutralizing acids, preventing bacteria growth, and washing away bits of food that get stuck to the gums or teeth. This helps prevent tooth decay, gum disease, and gingivitis. Saliva helps you enjoy your food by enhancing your ability to taste, chew, and swallow, and it begins the digestion process. We need our saliva;just imagine trying to enjoy a few crackers without the help of your saliva!

Dry mouth can also lead to salivary gland infections, mouth sores, and oral yeast infections (more information on yeast infections here).

Photo: AdobeStock/Antonioguillem
Photo: AdobeStock/Antonioguillem

“NEXT” for dry mouth prevention strategies

Katie Taylor

Katie Taylor started writing in 5th grade and hasn't stopped since. Her favorite place to pen a phrase is in front of her fireplace with a cup of tea, but she's been known to write in parking lots on the backs of old receipts if necessary. She and her husband live cozily in the Pacific Northwest enjoying rainy days and Netflix.

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