How to treat symptoms of dry, burning mouth and tongue
Keeping the delicate environment of the mouth healthy and balanced is important for the long term
health of teeth and gums. One of the most important components of a healthy mouth is saliva. Not only does saliva help digest food and make it possible to chew and swallow, it is a natural mouth cleanser helping to fight the ‘bad’ bacteria that can lead to gum disease and tooth decay. The medical term for dry mouth is “xerostomia” and anyone who suffers from it will confirm that it is a very uncomfortable condition making it hard to swallow or eat dry food, sometimes creating a burning sensation on the tongue or in the mouth. If left untreated, dry mouth can lead to oral infections that can potentially spread throughout the body.
Dry mouth is a relatively common condition that may be associated with a change in the basic characteristics of saliva causing reduced salivary flow (hyposalivation) and it frequently has no identifiable cause. There are often associated symptoms suggestive of another oral/tongue complaint called dysesthesia or “burning mouth syndrome”. Both conditions have very similar, frequently overlapping, symptoms, these can include:
- Xerophthalmia (dry eyes)
- Inability to cry
- Blurred vision
- Photophobia (light intolerance)
- Burning sensation on tongue and roof of mouth
- Itching or grittiness
- Dysphonia (voice changes)
- Sticky or tacky tongue sensation
- Feeling of swelling in the tongue
Since saliva flow is reduced while sleeping, it is common to wake up with dry mouth that usually subsides after eating or drinking. It is a common symptom associated with some chronic diseases but dry mouth symptoms may also be in indication of simple dehydration. Dry/burning mouth can also be caused by:
- Change in hormonal balance (Menopause)
- Sjogren’s syndrome (expanded issues related to reduced overall mucous flow including dry eyes and mouth)
- Vitamin deficiencies
- Diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and auto-immune diseases, or diseases that affect the immune systems response, such as HIV/AIDS
- Oral Thrush or Intestinal Candida
- Excessive use of alcohol
- Chemo and radiotherapy
- Prescription drug therapy
With dry mouth it is important to keep in mind the greater potential for tooth decay and gum disease that comes along with it, and be diligent about following good oral hygiene habits, including brushing at least twice a day, flossing every day and visiting your dentist for a checkup and cleaning at least twice a year.
Managing simple dry mouth symptoms can be as easy as following these suggestions:
- Drink water frequently to keep the mouth moist and to help loosen mucus.
- Suck on sugar-free hard candies, ice chips, or sugar-free popsicles. Chew sugarless gum (gums containing (xylitol). Both of these actions can help to stimulate saliva flow.
- Avoid commercial mouth rinses and mouthwashes containing alcohol or peroxide.
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine.
- Minimize the use of spicy or salty foods as they can irritate a dry mouth.
- Quit smoking.
- Use a moisturizer on the lips to minimize irritation.
- Use a soft-bristled toothbrush when brushing teeth and gums; rinse before and after all meals with plain water or a mild mouth rinse (8 ounces warm water, ½ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon baking soda).
Mouth sprays and other remedies
There are several natural herb based mouth sprays on the market (see iherb.com) that help to eliminate and control dry mouth. The product used by many in the medical field is called Muconict which known to help soothe mouth sores as it manages the symptoms of dry mouth. The main ingredients in this product are; calendula, plantain oils, whole rose hip oil, sea buckthorn oil and other herbs. Coconut oil: used for oil pulling (melt one teaspoon of coconut oil and swish in, around the mouth and teeth for up to 20 minutes, rinse and repeat daily.) or simply melting a very small amount in the mouth can help sooth symptoms of dry/burning mouth.
Baking soda mixed with lemon juice is used by many to treat symptoms of dry mouth. (Squeeze a whole lime or lemon into a glass; add half a teaspoon of baking soda slowly to prevent over-fizz. Add 8 oz. water and drink.) Also acts to alkalinize the body.
Apple Cider Vinegar/Baking Soda is recommended by some as a cure for dry mouth (2 tablespoons of natural apple cider vinegar in a glass, add half a teaspoon of baking soda. Add 8 oz. of filtered water and drink.) Also helps to alkalinize the body.
Ubiqinol and CoQ10 Supplements: Dental (periodontal) disease has been shown to improve in studies when CoQ10 is applied directly to the teeth and gums. And there is new evidence that coenzyme Q-10 taken orally is helpful in treating periodontal disease and the symptoms stemming from periodontal disease. Instances of dry and burning mouth and tongue have reportedly shown some improvement as well.
Vitamin B Supplements: Vitamin B is essential in the balance of healthy mucus membranes, including those found in the mouth. A full spectrum Vitamin B Supplement is recommended for supporting good oral health with vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) and Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) being the most significant.
Chew Xylitol Gum: Most sugars are avoided in the pursuit of good oral health, but there is one type that actually helps inhibit the bacteria that cause tooth decay called Xylitol. This sweetener is derived from plants and has proven anti-bacterial effects, especially on S. mutans. Research has shown that using xylitol gum or mints immediately after eating can reduce dry mouth and the potential for cavities.
Teas: Drink ginger, chamomile or green tea to stimulate saliva. Frequent intervals of any of these herbs will help alleviate dry mouth. Slippery elm bark (tea or supplement) contains mucilage, a substance that becomes a slick gel when mixed with water. It coats and soothes the mouth, throat, stomach and intestines. Echinacea also helps in stimulating salivation and therefore may be a potentially effective treatment for dry mouth. It can be readily found in the form of tea at most grocery and health food stores.
The bottom line
Beyond home remedies, it is important to brush regularly and have your teeth cleaned by a dentist regularly. Drink water often to relieve dryness; and avoid salt, sugar, caffeine, tobacco and alcohol. Chew gum if possible; It stimulates the salivary glands. Dry mouth may continue to persist, especially for anyone using prescription medications, so trying a variety of methods may be required in order to find what works best for you.