Hydration and Dry Mouth. Is There a Connection?
What causes dry mouth?
Dry Mouth may be caused/made worse by multiple factors. There are the underlying (major) causes, such as medications, medical conditions, cancer treatment, aging etc. However, there also are contributing factors such as habits, diet, environment and dehydration. Everyone is different and can be affected by these conditions differently. Some may even have multiple conditions/reasons which cause dry mouth. It is important to look into all the possibilities and address them accordingly.
So what is the solution for Dry Mouth?
The same multi-factorial concept applies to managing the symptoms of dry mouth. Some treatment is be directed toward addressing underlying causes, such as treating/managing medical conditions with your medical doctor. Others include palliative treatment such as the use of dry mouth formulated dry mouthwashes, sprays, lozenges, oral discs etc, diet and habit changes and hydration.
What do I mean by hydration?
Hydration is not just casual sipping on water whenever we experience dry mouth or thirst. Proper hydration is a calculated intention to make sure we provide our bodies with the water that it needs to function properly.
Our body is comprised of 75% water (1) and it critical to our survival. In fact, we can survive without water only for days.
Every organism has a mechanism designed to preserve water. In humans when the brain detects dehydration, from the various sensors in the body, which monitor diuresis, natriuresis and blood pressure (1), it does two things.
First the brain regulates water-gate-keeping organs which are the kidneys, sweat glands and SALIVARY GLANDS. These organs have the ability to retain (keep) or excrete (remove) water out of the body (1). If there is excess water, the body can afford to let more of it out. There will be more urination (and urine will be clearer in color), more ability to produce sweat and saliva. If we are dehydrated, the body cannot afford to let as much water out. As a result, we will not urinate often, (and urine will appear very yellow in color), the rate of sweating will lower and saliva production will also decrease – we will experience dry mouth.
Second, the brain on detecting dehydration, signals for the sensation of thirst to start. Even though this is a great survival mechanism, the reflex to drink water is triggered when it is already too late, when we are already dehydrated. Therefore, it is important to be proactive about staying hydrated and not to wait until the feeling of thirst or dry mouth occurs.
Additionally, the older population drinks much less than younger persons (4) and are more likely to experience organ diseases which contribute to a disruption in water balance in the body.
How you know if you are dehydrated?
- Thirst sensation
- Dry mouth
- Darker, more concentrated urine
- Reduced concentration
More severe dehydration
- Very dry skin
- Rapid heartbeat
How much water should you drink?
According to the Committee and Institute of Medicine there are no conclusive studies giving specific guidelines, as water requirements depend on many factors, such as metabolism, body mass, environment, activity level
In general, however you should try to drink between half an ounce and an ounce of water for each pound you weigh, every day. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, that would be 75 to 150 ounces (2-4 liters) of water a day. If you’re living in a hot climate and exercising a lot, you’d be on the higher end of that range; if you’re in a cooler climate and have a sedentary lifestyle, you’d need less.
If you have a medical condition which restricts your diet and fluid intake, consult your doctor about that is appropriate for your situation.
General Guidelines for Staying Hydrated:
- Add water to your diet,
- Carry water with you at all times for easy access and make sure to drink 2-4 liters per day on average.
- Replace caloric and diet beverages (including sugar-sweetened sodas, teas, coffees, juices, milk) with water.
Read more: 7 Best Dry Mouth Remedies
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- Nicolaidis S. Physiology of thirst. In: Arnaud MJ, editor. Hydration Throughout Life. Montrouge: John Libbey Eurotext; 1998. p. 247.
- Panel on Dietary Reference Intakes for Electrolytes and Water. Dietary Reference Intakes for Water, Potassium, Sodium, Chloride, and Sulfate. Washington DC: National Academy Press; 2005.
- Altman P. Blood and Other Body Fluids. Washington DC: Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology; 1961.
- Phillips PA, Rolls BJ, Ledingham JG, et al. Reduced thirst after water deprivation in healthy elderly men. N Engl J Med. 1984;311:753–759
- Essentials of Human Physiology by Thomas M. Nosek. Section