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Do Opioids Cause Dry Mouth?

Do Opioids Cause Dry Mouth?

One of the most annoying side effects of taking certain medications is dry mouth or xerostomia.

This condition reduces saliva production, increasing your risk of cavities and other oral health problems. Often, people who take medications like narcotics wonder, “do opioids cause dry mouth?” If you’ve ever experienced this side effect, keep reading to learn why your medication may be causing it and the risks of leaving it untreated.

What Is Dry Mouth?

Also known as xerostomia, dry mouth is a condition in which the salivary glands in your mouth don’t produce enough saliva to keep your mouth wet. Dry mouth is usually caused by certain medications, as well as aging or radiation treatment for cancer.

While this may seem minor, saliva plays an important role in our bodies. Saliva helps prevent tooth decay by neutralizing acids produced by bacteria, which would otherwise eat through our enamel and teeth. Saliva also makes it easier to chew and swallow food, as well as enhances taste (and who doesn’t want that?)

Saliva is also vital to gut health, as the enzymes in saliva help us process and digest our food. Decreased saliva and dry mouth can range from being an annoying symptom to a major problem. Without treatment, your teeth, digestion, appetite, and even enjoyment of food can be affected.

Why Do Opioids Cause Dry Mouth?

Among the many drugs that cause dry mouth, opioids are at the top of the list. Many patients complain about taking opiates and dry mouth symptoms. But what’s the science behind it?

It all starts with how opioids affect the brain. Opioids have a depressing or sedative effect on the central nervous system, which means that it slows nerve activity, as well as functions like breathing and heart rate.

Opioids can also impact the autonomic nervous system, which controls involuntary bodily functions like breathing, heartbeat, digestive processes, and saliva production. Because opioids slow down this system, the production of saliva is also affected.

Opioids can also impact the autonomic nervous system, which controls involuntary bodily functions like breathing, heartbeat, digestive processes, and saliva production. Because opioids slow down this system, the production of saliva is also affected.

Can Dry Mouth Cause Dental Problems?

So, what are the long-term side effects of dry mouth? How can this nuisance become a bigger problem?

In the long run, untreated dry mouth can lead to dental problems like:

  • Cavities
  • Tooth loss and decay
  • Plaque build-up
  • Gum disease
  • Mouth sores
  • Yeast infection in the mouth (thrush)
  • Sore or split skin around the mouth
  • Cracked lips

Dry mouth can also cause other undesirable side effects, such as:

  • Stickiness in the mouth
  • Thick and stringy saliva
  • Difficulty chewing or swallowing food
  • Dry or sore throat
  • Hoarseness or scratchy voice
  • Dry or grooved tongue
  • Changed sense of taste

If you’re taking opioids and notice any of the above symptoms, speak to your doctor right away. While this side effect may merely seem like a nuisance, it can have a bigger impact in the long run if left untreated.

Additionally, people with opioid addictions are more likely to experience dry mouth among a variety of other dangers. Many patients who come to our Banyan rehab in Gilman, Illinois, have experienced tooth loss from dry mouth because they didn’t get help in time. If your use of opioids has gotten out of hand, our opioid addiction treatment can help you avoid these adverse side effects and more.

How to Manage Xerostomia

The best way to treat dry mouth is to find out what’s causing it. If you take any medications that cause dry mouth, such as opioids, ask your doctor if you can switch to another kind of medication that won’t produce this side effect. This is often a great solution for many patients.

If you aren’t able to switch medications or stop taking them, then here are some tips on how to manage xerostomia that may help.

  • Chew sugar-free gum to stimulate saliva flow (or have sugar-free hard candies)
  • Limit your caffeine intake
  • Avoid tobacco products
  • Drink water regularly
  • Don’t use mouthwashes that have alcohol (some good ones include Biotene Dry Mouth Oral Rinse and ACT Total Care Dry Mouth Mouthwash)
  • Avoid over-the-counter allergy medications and decongestants
  • Use a humidifier when sleeping to add moisture to the room
  • Visit your dentist at least twice a year to properly treat any dental problems

Have an Opioid Problem?

Regular use of opiates and dry mouth may seem minor, but your circumstances can worsen with an increased use of these drugs. Chronic opioid abuse can lead to addiction, liver disease, mental illness, and more. If you’ve become addicted to your medications, now is the time to get help.

Banyan Treatment Centers Heartland offers inpatient substance abuse treatment in Illinois that includes medical detox services and therapy to treat the physical and mental factors of patients’ disorders. Our counselors and medical personnel work together to ensure that our clients have everything they need to regain control of their lives.

Whether you need prescription drug addiction treatment, medical detox, or counseling, Banyan Heartland can help. Call our drug rehab in Illinois today at 888-280-4763 to learn how you can get started.

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Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa is the National Director of Digital Marketing and is responsible for a multitude of integrated campaigns and events in the behavioral health and addictions field. All articles have been written by Alyssa and medically reviewed by our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Darrin Mangiacarne.
Do Opioids Cause Dry Mouth?
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