Saliva, secreted from hundreds of salivary glands of the mouth, plays a very important role in moistening, cleansing, digestion, and controlling microbial growth in oral space. If the optimum flow of saliva is disturbed due to one reason or the other, it could secretion cause dry throat. It is very common across all age groups and in most cases, it heals naturally by treating the underlying cause. But if dry throat persists for over a week or so it will start affecting your normal oral functionalities like eating, swallowing, and speaking. So, if you are experiencing symptoms of dry mouth, it is better to consult your dentist or oral hygienist to know about the underlying cause and start suitable treatments to ease the discomfort.

What Are the Symptoms of Dry Mouth?

You will have perfectly healthy and functional oral space only when all the organs are in good health to work in sync to ensure smooth functioning. Short supply of saliva could cause dry throat, and some of the symptoms are:

  • A feeling of dryness or stickiness of the throat and the mouth
  • Urge to drink more and more water frequently
  • In some cases, it could lead to soreness of the throat
  • Lips will start cracking
  • Excessive dryness could cause a burning sensation in the tongue, mouth, and throat
  • You might experience problems in eating, swallowing, tasting, and speaking
  • In some cases, a dry throat could cause bad breath

What are the Causes of Dry Throat?

The dry throat is mainly due to less than optimum secretion of saliva, resulting in dryness of the throat and mouth. Several factors could affect the natural secretion of saliva. Some of the common causes of dry throat are:

Dehydration

Depending on age, gender, weight, and physical activity, a healthy person should drink approx 3 liters of water daily. Failing to drink optimum water for long could cause dehydration, leading to a dry throat along with several other complications. The body has its own mechanism to alert you about possible dehydration, some of the symptoms could be:

  • Urge to drink water
  • Less urination or concentrated urine
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle cramp
  • Dizziness
  • Common Cold

Infections caused by viruses and other pathogens could cause the common cold. Immunological response against the virus could trigger sneezing, runny nose, and dry throat. It is very common across all age groups, but if cough forms and fever persists for long, you should consult your doctor for diagnosis and treatment.

Flu

Unlike the common cold, the influenza virus affects your respiratory system more deeply. Popular as flu, it could cause dry throat along with other symptoms like fever, body ache, fatigue, and in some cases vomiting and diarrhea. If left untreated, it could lead to serious medical conditions like bronchitis, pneumonia, sinus infections.

Hay Fever and Allergies

The human body is conditioned to function perfectly in the certain temperature and moisture conditions. The seasonal change affects the body’s immunological reaction to harmless particles in the atmosphere. Immune system overreaction to seasonal changes leads to the release of histamine, thus causing symptoms like running nose, itchy skin, a cough, and dry throat. Depending on the severity of the allergic reaction, you should consult your doctor immediately, as ignoring it could result in serious respiratory complications.

Sleeping With Open Mouth

If you have the habit of falling asleep with your mouth open, the excessive airflow through oral space could affect saliva secretion, resulting in a dry throat. It is very common, especially among adults, and affects the normal sleeping cycle causing fatigue, anxiety, and other related disorders. If it is affecting your normal life, you should consult your dentist as he could suggest some remedial measures to get rid of the problem forever.

Acid Reflux (GRED)

If gastronomical chemicals return to your food pipe from the stomach then you have a medical condition called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). The acid reflux could cause dry throat, burning sensation, dry cough, and hoarse voice. If it is affecting your life, you should consult your doctor as this could be a sign of some underlying gastronomical condition.

Mononucleosis

Mononucleosis, also known as “kissing disease”, is caused by the Epstein-Barr virus. It spreads through body fluid, mainly saliva, from one person to another. If infected, you will have symptoms like mild fever, swollen lymph nodes, fatigue, along the dry throat. The infection lasts for 2-3 weeks, but it sustains longer so you should consult your doctor for further diagnosis and treatment.

Tonsillitis

If you are experiencing inflammation of the fleshy lump at the back of the throat, then it could be tonsillitis. The reason could be a viral or bacterial infection, and dry throat is the primary symptom along with fever, fatigue, red or white patches on the tonsil, and bad breath.
Besides the reasons mentioned here, dry throat is more common among those in the higher age bracket, smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, and are on some medication. So, it is better to consult your doctor for a detailed diagnosis so that you could get the right treatments without side effects.

Treatments and Home Remedies for Dry Throat

Dry throat could cause pain and discomfort as it affects your oral functionalities. In most cases, it is all about changes in saliva secretion, so the treatment of dry throat varies depending on the underlying cause with the focus on easing pain and discomfort. Some of the effective treatments for dry throat caused by:

Dehydration

If the dry throat is due to dehydration the only possible remedy is drinking the optimum quantity of water as per your age, weight, and gender. It is better to avoid drinking alcohol and caffeinated drinks to prevent dehydration. Your urine color will guide you whether your body is properly hydrated or not.

Hay Fever

If the underlying cause is hay fever or allergic reaction, you can try nasal decongestants for immediate relief as open nasal passage boots saliva secretion. Your doctor might prescribe antihistamine along with corticosteroid medications. In some cases, your doctors might recommend allergen immunotherapy to make your immune system more tolerant to allergens.
Besides medications, you can try ginger—known for anti-inflammatory property, and garlic for its antioxidant property, and onion for antihistamine effect.

Sleeping with Open Mouth

Irrespective of the reason behind open mouth while sleeping, whether nasal congestion, sinus, or obstructive sleep apnea, the treatment involves clearing the congestion and increasing saliva formation. It is very common across all age groups, particularly among seniors, so some of the oft-recommended treatments are the administration of nasal decongestants, antihistamine, corticosteroids nasal sprays. Wearing an adhesive strip over the nose-bridge may help in controlling breathing from the mouth. For OSA condition, the doctor might prescribe orthodontic reposition of the jaw or continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy.

Flu and Common Cold

If the influenza virus has affected your respiratory system, you should drink plenty of water and other items to maintain your body fluid level. Doctors recommend rest to boost recovery as excessive movement could cause dehydration and dry throat. Depending on symptoms, you can try nasal spray to decongest the passage or try steam vaporizer to ease nasal congestion. For dry throat, gargling with salt water is highly effective.

Mononucleosis

If you are infected with the Epstein-Barr virus, your doctor might recommend medication to control fever and fatigue. For dry throat, you can try gargling with saltwater. Avoid eating and drinking items that could cause dehydration or sensation.

Acid Reflux

If the dry throat is due to acid reflux, your doctor might recommend antacids to neutralize gastric juices. Avoid eating acidic food and caffeinated drinks. Avoid doing anything that could put additional pressure on the stomach.

Tonsillitis

The best possible treatment for dry throat caused by tonsillitis is to keep the body properly hydrated and rest. Besides, you can try some OTC medications for pain relief. If required, your doctor might recommend anti-bacterial medication.

When to See a Doctor?

You are now aware of the symptoms of dry throat and possible underlying causes. Although most of the symptoms go away in a week or so, if it persists with fever and pain you should consult your doctor for diagnosis and advanced treatment. If you are allergic to certain compounds, then it is better to consult your doctor on priority as ignoring it could lead to a serious medical condition. You should try home remedies like gargling with lukewarm water and body hydration to boost recovery.

How Long Does Dry Throat Last?

The duration of the dry throat depends on the underlying cause. Treating the underlying cause might take some time, but dry throat usually goes away in 1 to 2 weeks. It could be treated with OTC medication and saliva stimulation therapies, but if the symptoms persist longer then you should consult your doctor for a detailed diagnosis and suitable treatment.

Is Dry Throat A Sign Of Diabetes?

People with type-1 or type-2 diabetes often complain about dry throat and mouth. Although the exact reason is not yet known, experts link high blood sugar levels to saliva secretion. You can easily control dry throat with proper body hydration, but if it is affecting your normal life you should seek your doctor’s advice to manage it better.

What Specialists Treat Dry Mouth?

Well, it depends on the underlying cause. Ideally, you should consult your dentist first for examinations. Based on primary observation, other intraoral examination, and factors like diet, health history, medications, etc he will refer you to a suitable specialist. If your salivary gland is affected, your dentists will refer you to an ENT physician.

Outlook

Dry throat is very common and it is not a matter of concern. In most cases, people recover in 1 to 2 weeks with OTC medications and home remedies. However, if it is painful and recurs frequently, you should consult your dentist for a detailed examination. Depending on the underlying cause, he will recommend suitable treatments to eliminate the causes like dehydration, infections, and stress. Since it is all about saliva secretion imbalance, you should drink plenty of water to restore the balance.

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Published by Dr. Daniel Bronsky

Dr. Daniel is an orthodontist at Invis London.

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