dry mouth diabetes

People who have diabetes are at a higher risk of getting an infection than an average individual. Dry mouth or Xerostomia is one of the most complaints amongst people suffering from diabetes type 1 or type 2.

Mostly, drugs that are taken by diabetic patients cause dry mouth. Also, dry mouth is not only a symptom of diabetes but it can exacerbate the condition of diabetes. 

Dry mouth is not a severe problem in itself but can lead to severe health problems, if left untreated. Let’s dive in together to understand how to manage dry mouth if you have diabetes.

What is dry mouth?

Dry mouth or Xerostomia is a condition in which the body is not producing enough saliva to keep the insides of your mouth wet and moist.

Saliva serves as the natural defense against cavity-causing bacteria by washing away the accumulated food debris and maintaining the pH balance inside the oral cavity. (1)

How do you get dry mouth?

There are several causes of dry mouth, apart from as a side-effect in type 1 or 2 diabetes. These causes are:

  1. A side effect of certain medications like anti-histamines, anti-depressants, etc. (2)
  2. A side effect of certain diseases like Sjogren syndrome, HIV/AIDS, mumps, etc. (3)
  3. Nerve damage to head and neck due to injury or surgery.
  4. A side effect of radiation therapy/chemotherapy. (4)
  5. Fever, excessive sweating, blood loss, excessive vomiting.
  6. Surgical removal of salivary glands. (5)
  7. Cigarette smoking, tobacco chewing.

How does dry mouth make you feel?

Dry mouth is quite an unpleasant sensation, and the following symptoms accompany it:

  1. Sticky, dry feeling in the mouth.
  2. Frequent thirst.
  3. Sores or split skin in the corners of the mouth.
  4. Cracked/ dry lips
  5. Dry feeling in the throat.
  6. Burning or tingling sensation in the tongue.
  7. Dry, red or raw tongue.
  8. Difficulty in chewing, tasting or swallowing food
  9. Difficulty in speaking
  10. Bad breath

How is dry mouth and diabetes related?

Dry mouth is a symptom of diabetes. There are certain medications taken by people with diabetes which can result in dry mouth. (6) Also, dry mouth condition can worsen diabetes.

High blood sugar also impairs the body’s ability to fight infections. Dry mouth can exacerbate this as there is no saliva to fight infections in the oral cavity.

Hence, it can result in rampant tooth decay, gingivitis, etc.

Complications of dry mouth in diabetes

Saliva acts as a first line of defense against infections in the oral cavity. It also helps in the digestion of food by providing the moisture needed to chew and swallow food.

Increased blood sugar levels in diabetic patients prevent the body from fighting infections. Dry mouth exacerbates this effect.

All this results in rampant tooth decay, gum diseases, etc, as the body tries and fails to fight infections.

When you have less saliva in your mouth, it can lead to building up of food debris and plaque in your mouth, resulting in poor oral hygiene.

Other complications of unmanaged dry mouth in diabetes are –

  • Gingivitis or inflamed and irritated gums due to the presence of bacteria
  • Periodontitis (7)
  • Thrush or candidiasis
  • Bad breath that persists after brushing teeth and excessive cleaning
  • Sleep apnea
  • Metallic taste in the mouth
  • Infection in the salivary glands

How to manage dry mouth in diabetes?

Dry mouth is a temporary problem for anyone, which usually gets corrected on its own. However, in diabetic patients, it can lead to more severe health problems, if left unchecked.

First and foremost, it is essential to identify the underlying cause for dry mouth. If it is your high blood sugar levels, then you should manage it to prevent dry mouth.

Sometimes the medications you have been prescribed for diabetes can also cause dry mouth. If it happens, you should consult your physician, who may prescribe a different medicine or adjust your dosage.

Here are some tips for managing your blood sugar levels at home:

  • Consuming low-sugar foods and drinks
  • Consuming high fiber diet
  • Taking medications regularly
  • Eating a high protein and fat diet
  • Monitoring your glucose levels daily

You should also visit your dentist at least twice a year, for regular cleanings and check-ups. Maintaining your oral hygiene will have a positive impact on dry mouth.

There are some natural options to improve or prevent the symptoms of dry mouth. These options are:

  1. Avoid foods and drinks with lots of sugar, caffeine or artificial sweeteners.
  2. Avoid spicy and salty foods.
  3. Stay hydrated and Drink lots of water throughout the day.
  4. Don’t forget to floss after every meal.
  5. Eat high fiber fruits and vegetables.
  6. Use an alcohol-free mouthwash.
  7. Chew gum or sugarless candy to stimulate salivary flow.
  8. Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste.
  9. Use a humidifier, especially at night. Increased moisture in the air may help relieve dry mouth.

Take away message

Dry mouth is easily manageable even if you have diabetes. It only has serious health implications if it is left unchecked.

You should keep a regular check on your blood sugar levels and take your medications as prescribed without fail.

A healthy lifestyle and frequent visits to your dentist are all the tools that you need to manage dry mouth.

If you follow such simple steps as drinking plenty of water and avoiding artificial sweeteners, you can easily prevent dry mouth from becoming more than a mild annoyance.