Dry Mouth: 5 Common Medications that are Affecting Your Oral Health

Dry mouth, also known as xerostomia, is a common condition that occurs when the mouth doesn’t produce enough saliva. Saliva plays a crucial role in maintaining good oral health by washing away food particles, neutralizing harmful acids, and preventing infections. Without enough saliva, you may experience difficulty swallowing, speaking, and even increased risk of cavities and gum disease. 

One of the main causes of dry mouth is medications, which can affect the salivary glands and reduce the production of saliva. In this blog post, we’ll discuss the top 5 types of medications that are known to cause dry mouth and what you can do to manage this condition.

Why Is My Mouth So Dry Anyways?

Dry mouth occurs when the mouth doesn’t produce enough saliva to keep it moist and comfortable. Some common symptoms of dry mouth include a sticky, dry feeling in the mouth, frequent thirst, cracked lips, bad breath, difficulty swallowing or speaking, and a rough, dry tongue.

Dry mouth is not only annoying though; it can also lead to dental problems, including cavities, gum disease, and mouth infections.

Medications that Cause Dry Mouth

Unfortunately, I would be lying if I said that there were only 5 medications that caused dry mouth. The truth is that there are THOUSANDS of medications on market, and it is estimated that there are over 5 HUNDRED that can cause dry mouth.

Luckily for you, Harmony Dental has partnered with DentalRx to make sure that you are receiving the best care possible. DentalRx reviews your medications before your dental appointment and makes sure they are compatible with your treatment and your overall oral health. This includes addressing the medications that are causing your dry mouth which I talk more about in our blog post here.

With that being said, there are still 5 primary types of medications that can cause dry mouth that you should be aware of.

1) Antidepressants:

Antidepressants are commonly prescribed medications for managing depression and anxiety (which unfortunately is a growing pandemic in modern society). Often, dry mouth is a side effect of these medications. The exact mechanism is not fully understood, but it is believed that certain antidepressants can interfere with the normal functioning of the salivary glands, leading to reduced saliva production. Examples of antidepressants that may cause dry mouth include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like Prozac (fluoxetine) and Zoloft (sertraline).

2) Antihistamines:

Antihistamines are used to treat allergies and relieve symptoms such as sneezing, itching, nausea, and congestion. Antihistamines work by blocking the action of histamine, but they can also affect the salivary glands, reducing saliva production. Common examples of antihistamines that may cause dry mouth include Gravol (dimenhydrinate), Benadryl (diphenhydramine), and Claritin (loratadine).

One thing that I should caution about antihistamines is that they are in a lot of over-the-counter medications. I remember before I was a pharmacist, I took an over-the-counter product so that I wouldn’t get sea sick. Turned out the product had dimenhydrinate in it and I ended up sleeping the whole boat ride and woke up with my mouth dry as a dessert. At least I didn’t get sea sick! 

My word of warning: make sure you read all of the medical ingredients or check with a pharmacist when buying over-the-counter medications.

3) Inhalers:

Inhalers are commonly prescribed to manage respiratory conditions such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). While inhalers are essential for controlling breathing difficulties, some types can contribute to dry mouth. Examples of inhalers that may cause dry mouth include Atrovent (ipratropium) and Flovent (fluticasone).

4) Blood Pressure Medications:

Medications used to manage high blood pressure, such as diuretics (water pills) and beta blockers, can also have a drying effect on the mouth. These medications can disrupt the balance of fluids in the body, causing decreased saliva production. Additionally, beta blockers can affect the nerve signals responsible for saliva production. Common blood pressure medications that may cause dry mouth include Hydrochlorothiazide and Atenolol.

5) Opioid Pain Medications

Opioid pain medications are prescribed for moderate to severe pain relief. While opioids can effectively manage pain, they can also lead to dry mouth. Opioids can affect the central nervous system, which in turn can interfere with the salivary glands and reduce saliva production. Examples of opioid pain medications that may cause dry mouth include OxyContin (oxycodone) and Tylenol #3 (codeine/acetaminophen).

Managing Dry Mouth

If you are experiencing dry mouth, there are several steps you can take to manage this condition, including:

  • Staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water
  • Chewing sugar-free gum or sucking on sugar-free candies to stimulate saliva production
  • Avoiding alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine, as they can exacerbate dry mouth
  • Using a humidifier at night to add moisture to the air – this one has really helped me!
  • Practicing good oral hygiene, including brushing twice a day and flossing daily
  • And talking to your healthcare providers, like the amazing team at Harmony Dental Studio, about adjusting your medication if dry mouth persists.

Dry mouth can be an uncomfortable, and potentially harmful side effect of certain medications. By understanding the medications that can cause dry mouth, such as the 5 most common types we described here, you can take proactive steps to manage this condition and protect your oral health. 

If you are experiencing persistent dry mouth, it is important to consult with your healthcare providers for guidance and potential adjustments to your medication regimen. Providers like Harmony Dental Studio and DentalRx are here to make sure that you are healthy and happy in all aspects of your life. Remember, maintaining a healthy mouth contributes to your overall well-being, so don’t overlook the importance of addressing dry mouth promptly.


Guest Blog is written by:

Nickolas Steel (Clinical Pharmacist, Founder of DentalRx)


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