Who hasn’t gone out at night to drink some beer or a glass of wine only to discover the next morning that their mouth is dry and pasty and their tongue feels drier than an old shoe? Why does alcohol cause so much dry mouth?
About 70% of the population consumes alcohol regularly. It is well known that excessive intake of alcohol can cause digestive, cardiovascular, or neurological diseases and heavy drinkers are up to 30 times more likely to have oral cancer. However, moderate alcohol consumption may also have some effect on the body, such as dry mouth.
It is very common to notice that your mouth is drier than normal after drinking alcohol, even in moderate amounts. This happens to everyone, even people without previous dry mouth problems. In the case of people with xerostomia, alcohol worsens their dry mouth and related problems.
But, why does alcohol cause dry mouth?
Alcohol is a diuretic
Alcohol has a diuretic effect on the body. This means that drinking alcohol increases urination and it can eventually cause widespread dehydration. This dehydration affects the entire body, including the mouth.
The higher the amount of alcohol ingested, the longer the dehydration lasts, and the more dry mouth worsens.
Alcohol is an irritant
When we drink alcohol, the mouth is the first part of the body that comes into contact with unmetabolized alcohol at its maximum concentration. Alcohol irritates the mucous of the mouth.
Excessive and continued alcohol intake can also produce atrophy of the salivary glands and consequently decrease salivary flow. Alcohol abuse also causes inflammation of the parotid glands that produce saliva sticky and thicker. This eventually can cause stones and blockages in the ducts of the salivary glands.
Alcohol affects the nervous system
Alcohol affects the autonomic nervous system (ANS) which regulates involuntary vital processes of almost all organs and controls the actions of blood vessels, muscles, and certain glands (e.g. the SNA regulates secretions from the salivary glands).
The SNA is always active, regardless of whether we are asleep or awake, and controls processes such as breathing, heart rate, blinking, digestion, blood circulation, hormonal processes or salivation, among many others.
The autonomic nervous system is divided into the sympathetic nervous system (that accelerates the body’s functions) and parasympathetic (that decelerates the body’s functions), which keep the body in balance.
For saliva production, the parasympathetic nervous system stimulates the secretion of saliva and the sympathetic nervous system inhibits the secretion of saliva.
Alcohol is toxic to the nervous system and alters the functioning of the SNA causing vasoconstriction of the parotid glands and reducing the secretion of saliva. This is the main reason that the alcohol causes dry mouth.
In addition, continued abuse of alcohol can cause irreparable degeneration of the autonomic nerves that regulate the functioning of the salivary glands.
Some tips to relieve dry mouth when you drink alcohol
If you suffer from dry mouth, it is recommended to avoid alcoholic beverages. But if you fancy an alcoholic drink, here are some tips to minimize the subsequent dry mouth.
-Limit consumption of alcohol. The more alcohol you drink the worse your dry mouth will be.
-Alternate drinking alcohol with drinking a glass of water to compensate for the diuretic effect of alcohol.
-After drinking alcohol, use toothpaste and mouthwash for xerostomia to relieve dry mouth.
-Use Xylimelts or wetting gels overnight to sleep more comfortably and improve the condition of the mucous membranes of the mouth.