Anybody can have a dry mouth once in a while, and it is an uncomfortable feeling, to say the least. However, constant dryness of the mouth can be one of the first symptoms of diabetes and may lead to serious oral health issues. Let’s understand the connection between diabetes and dry mouth.
What is Dry Mouth?
Dry mouth, also called xerostomia, is a condition in which your salivary glands do not produce enough saliva to keep your mouth moist.
There can be various causes due to which your salivary glands do not work properly, and one of the most common causes is diabetes.
What is the Relationship Between Diabetes and Dry Mouth?
Diabetes mellitus is a chronic condition that affects your body’s ability to produce or use a hormone called insulin, resulting in high blood glucose levels.
Type 1 Diabetes is an autoimmune disorder, where your immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys the β-cells in your pancreas that are responsible for producing insulin. Type 2 Diabetes is a metabolic disorder characterised by insulin resistance in your cells and tissues, i.e. your cells are not able to utilise the insulin produced by your pancreas, which results in the glucose remaining in your blood.
The exact reason why diabetes causes dry mouth is still unclear. However, it could be due to various reasons as listed below:
- Dehydration: In diabetes, your kidneys continue to produce more urine to remove the excess glucose from your body. This results in frequent urination (polyuria), and dehydration, causing symptoms such as increased thirst and dry mouth.
- Medication: Dry mouth can also be a side effect of some medications used to manage diabetes.
- Hyperglycemia: According to some studies, the high blood glucose (sugar) levels in diabetes can alter the functioning of salivary glands, leading to reduced saliva production and dry mouth.
- Kidney Conditions: Consistently high blood glucose levels can lead to kidney disease, which may cause dry mouth.
What are the Symptoms of Dry Mouth?
Dry mouth can cause the following symptoms:
- Bad breath
- A rough and dry tongue
- Cracked lips
- Dryness or stickiness in your mouth
- Difficulty in chewing and swallowing food
- A changed sense of taste
- Wider space in teeth
- Loose teeth
- Thick, sticky spit
- Burning sensation in your mouth and throat
- Trouble talking
What are the Complications of Dry Mouth?
Your saliva plays a crucial role in your oral health. The enzymes in saliva help in breaking down food, controlling oral bacterial growth, and removing acid and food particles from your teeth and gums.
The absence of saliva and dry mouth may lead to oral complications such as:
- Plaque buildup
- Tooth decay
- Gum disease
- Oral infection
- Thrush or oral candidiasis, a fungal infection in the mouth
- Poor nutrition due to difficulty in swallowing food
How to Treat Dry Mouth?
The best way to treat dry mouth caused by diabetes is to keep your blood sugar levels in check and your diabetes under control. The symptoms of dry mouth can also be controlled by the following steps:
- Drink plenty of water and unsweetened fluids throughout the day.
- Avoid caffeinated drinks like coffee, tea, and some sodas as caffeine can lead to dry mouth.
- Avoid smoking and consuming alcohol as they can also lead to dryness of the mouth.
- Chew sugar-free gum as it can help in the production of saliva.
- Drink water while having meals as it moistens the oral cavity and helps in swallowing your food.
- Use a lip balm if your lips are cracked.
- Use a humidifier while you sleep at night as it can add moisture to the air you breathe.
- If a medication is the cause of dry mouth, you can discuss with your doctor about changing the medication or adjusting its dosage.
- Ask your doctor about using over-the-counter saliva substitutes that contain xylitol.
- Take care of your oral health by brushing your teeth twice a day, flossing, and visiting the dentist regularly.
How Can You Prevent Dry Mouth in Diabetes?
The steps to prevent dry mouth are similar to the steps used to treat it. You can prevent dry mouth in diabetes by managing your blood sugar levels. Diabetes is a chronic condition, which can be managed with proper medication and lifestyle changes. Here are a few ways in which you can control your blood sugar levels and prevent dry mouth:
- Eat a balanced and healthy diet including fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
- Monitor your blood sugar levels regularly.
- Do not miss appointments with your doctor.
- Take your medications as prescribed by your doctor.
- Exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight.
When to Contact a Doctor?
A dry mouth may be an early sign of diabetes. Inform your doctor at the earliest if you notice signs of dry mouth and any/or other symptoms of diabetes such as increased thirst, frequent urination, increased hunger, fatigue, unexplained weight loss, blurred vision, etc.
It is advisable to consult a doctor at the earliest if you have diabetes and experience symptoms such as:
- Trouble chewing, swallowing, or talking
- Mouth sores
- Bleeding from your teeth or mouth
- Loose teeth
Don’t Have Time To Read?
- Dry mouth is a condition in which your salivary glands do not produce enough saliva or spit to keep your mouth moist.
- Dry mouth may be one of the earliest symptoms of diabetes, both type 1 and type 2. Although the exact relationship between diabetes and dry mouth has not yet been established, it can be caused due to dehydration, salivary gland dysfunction, medications taken to manage diabetes, and kidney problems due to diabetes.
- Dry mouth can cause symptoms such as bad breath, rough and dry tongue, cracked lips, loose teeth, mouth sores, and difficulty in chewing and swallowing food.
- The absence of saliva may cause plaque buildup, cavities, tooth decay, gum disease, poor nutrition due to difficulty in swallowing food, and oral infection.
- The best way to treat dry mouth due to diabetes is by managing your blood sugar levels. You should also drink plenty of water, avoid smoking and alcohol consumption, and discuss a change of medication with your doctor.
- Dry mouth in diabetes can also be prevented by controlling your blood sugar levels. You can manage your diabetes by taking a balanced diet, monitoring your blood sugar levels, taking proper medications prescribed by your doctor, and exercising regularly.
- Consult your doctor if you experience tooth decay, bleeding from your gums, mouth sores, and difficulty swallowing food.
- Use the Phable Care App to consult India’s leading diabetologists, order medicines, book lab tests, integrate blood sugar monitoring and other devices to get real-time remote care from the comfort of your home. Also, check out our Diabetes Management program which provides 360º care. Let’s treat diabetes together.
Dry mouth may be one of the earliest symptoms of high blood sugar levels caused by diabetes. People with diabetic dry mouth may experience the following symptoms:
- A rough, dry tongue
- Frequent pain or soreness in the throat
- Bad breath
- Loose teeth
- Mouth sores
- Chapped and cracked lips
A dry mouth for a diabetic means their blood sugar levels may be high. In diabetics, hyperglycemia or high blood sugar levels can result in dry mouth.
Yes, excess sugar or glucose levels in your blood can lead to a dry mouth. It is a common symptom of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. The exact reason is not known but high blood sugar levels may lead to dehydration, frequent urination, and cause dryness of the mouth. Some medications used to treat diabetes can also cause dry mouth.
The three most common symptoms of undiagnosed diabetes are:
- Increased hunger (polyphagia)
- Frequent urination (polyuria)
- Increased thirst (polydipsia)