In today’s society, where mental health conditions have become more prevalent, it would be hardly surprising if you experience dry mouth anxiety.
Anxiety is your body’s innate reaction to stressful situations. While a feeling of restlessness and fear accompany it, it usually passes quickly. However, if it constantly overwhelms you, there is a high chance you could be experiencing anxiety disorders.
Among the several symptoms associated with anxiety, dry mouth is common – where you produce less moisture inside your oral cavity. Another term used is ‘Xerostomia’ – which results in a deficiency of salivary production and reduced saliva secretion. This affects the active role of your salivary glands, disrupting normal functions like swallowing and chewing.
What causes anxiety-related dry mouth?
Stress is a consequence of the flight or fight response of your body to dangerous stimuli. If you were to encounter a snake or speak in front of a large crowd, you could see a peak in your anxiety levels. This activates the body’s autonomic physiological reactions – your body’s built-in defence mechanism. As a result, your body increases heart rate, sweat production and decreases salivary flow (dry mouth).
You could experience dry mouth for several other reasons. If you have a hard time dealing with your symptom, always consult your doctor or a health professional for an effective diagnosis.
Here, we will see some other causes apart from the stress-causing dry mouth:
Often, the underlying cause of dryness of the mouth is nothing to fear. Maybe you didn’t drink enough water or slept with your mouth open (Yes! It’s possible). Even the scorching heat of the summer is a factor. However, note that such instances do not last long.
- GERD/Reflux increases gastric acid secretion which irritates the oesophagus resulting in dryness of your mouth. Even your anxiety can increase your stomach acid.
- Many anti-depressants, anti-psychotics, psychotropics, and diuretics result in dry mouth syndrome.
- Smoking tobacco, Sjogren’s syndrome, alcohol, and caffeine are also causative factors.
Relation between dry mouth and oral health
A meta-analysis of a study of oral health in patients with mental health conditions showed enhanced tooth decay and tooth loss. Apart from your agitated thoughts causing a dry mouth, they also negatively affect your oral cavity.
Reduced salivary production affects your chewing process and gum health. As a result, you experience oral thrush, plaque build-up, and mouth sores.
SYMPTOMS OF ANXIETY
While anxiety disorders carry a wide range of symptoms, you need to familiarise yourself with a few other symptoms apart from dry mouth to understand your condition better.
Some other symptoms include:
- Excess fatigue and shaking
- Hyperventilation and rapid pulse
- Foul breath and throat dryness
- A feeling of agitation and restlessness
- Decreased saliva flow and dry mouth
- Increased heart rate
RELAXATION TECHNIQUES TO NAVIGATE YOUR ANXIETY-RELATED DRY MOUTH
At the end of the day, anxiety and stress are inevitable. We cannot completely get away from stress because it is our body’s natural way to cope with challenging life situations. Of course, you don’t want to look unaffected when attacked by a wild animal or a hurricane. However, some relaxation tips can help you deal with it better.
Get back to deep breathing
Ever noticed how your breath changes when you are angry, anxious, or upset? More than anything else, your first realization of how stressed you are is from your pounding chest. So, doing breathing exercises at such times is helpful to relax and calm down. Be aware of the strenuous thoughts as you take a deep breath, then gently disengage from them. As a result, you cope well with associated symptoms like dry mouth.
Try the 5-4-3-2-1 grounding technique
Many people find this five-step exercise extremely helpful to ground and relax during bouts of anxiety attacks. While it is simple, it is also an effective coping strategy to calm yourself.
Before you start, do the above breathing exercise once. Then follow the below steps.
- First, identify five things that are obvious to you. It could be anything in your sight, like a book or a table
- After that, identify four things you could touch and sense, like a box or a fabric
- Similarly, you acknowledge three things you could hear, like the sounds of birds chirping
- Next, think about two things you could smell in your surroundings, such as perfume
- Finally, acknowledge the one thing you could taste in your mouth (your morning coffee)
Choose meditation and mindfulness
Among the many benefits of meditation, anxiety reduction is one. You can try different techniques like visualization and body scan. These techniques can evoke awareness of thoughts and reduce stress, improving dry mouth symptoms.
Tips to relieve dry mouth anxiety
There are a few ways to manage or prevent dry mouth issues. You can incorporate these tips to relieve its effects. But always turn to a professional for advice whenever necessary.
- Reduce your intake of coffee and other dehydrating beverages
- Avoid using dentifrices that irritate your oral cavity
- Suck on ice and chew gums for saliva production
- Try stimulants that contain xylitol, betaine, and vitamin E
- Use a humidifier and stay relaxed
- Attain quality sleep, reduce stress, and maintain hydration
In most cases, the condition of dry mouth arises as a symptom of anxiety, or as a side effect of medications prescribed to you. Research shows that anxiety, depression, and stress have a considerable impact on the salivary flow reduction and cause xerostomia.
Therefore, treatment for dry mouth anxiety is addressing the cause of the mental health issue. The easy way could be to focus on establishing a healthy life – rest, relaxation, sleep, meditation, exercise, and a wholesome diet to reduce your anxiety and stress. Seek help from your close ones to come out on the brighter side.
If dry mouth persists from your medications, talk with your health professional for alternatives.