Don’t confuse thirst with dry mouth, even if you suffer from anxiety.

Don’t confuse thirst with dry mouth, even if you suffer from anxiety. It’s easy to cast off a case of dry mouth to dehydration.

I have had two bouts of dry mouth and was interested in knowing what physiological mechanism triggered these events, especially since the second episode occurred soon after my mother was admitted to the cardiac wing after complaining of chest pains.

My first case of dry mouth happened spontaneously, with no undue anxiety present.

My dentist said that sometimes the condition develops because mineral deposits block the salivary glands.

On the third day of this annoyance, I placed a lemon rind bit in my mouth, stimulating salivation, and the increased salivation washed away the mineral deposits.

However, my second bout of dry mouth, which lasted only several hours, was obviously linked to extreme anxiety.

I doubt that mineral deposits would have blocked my salivary glands for only several hours.

This time I didn’t use a lemon rind; I was at the hospital. I wasn’t breathing with my mouth open, either. But the dry mouth developed. The anxiety was very pronounced.

Stacey Silvers, MD

“Anxiety and stress wreak havoc on the body,” begins Dr. Stacey Silvers, MD, of Madison ENT & Facial Plastic Surgery in NYC, who is board certified in otolaryngology; one of her specialties is sinus surgery.

“There is an increased amount of stomach acid as a result of stress and anxiety.

“Testing, including my own office tests, has shown acid reflux to make it as high as into the back of the nose.

“Stomach acid is a pH of 2 and can kill off some of the healthy bacteria that we count on to keep our oral cavity healthy and hydrated.”

True dry mouth does not feel like thirst or that “parched” feeling you get when working in the hot sun.

It feels like cotton is in your mouth, and you can drink all the chilled water you want, and your oral cavity will still feel dry, as though the inside of it is lined with cotton. It’s a weird sensation.

Nevertheless, Dr. Silvers explains, “Dehydration and poor nasal breathing are other contributing factors.

“I have many patients who have chronic nasal obstruction due to severe allergies or deviated septum.

“Oral breathing is common and often worse at night.  It is easy to get dehydrated and suffer with oral complaints when not breathing well through the nose.”

Is there a way to tell the difference between true dry mouth and thirst?

I believe so. Just imagine a tall glass of your favorite icy cold beverage.

If it excites you, you’re thirsty. If it does nothing for you, you have dry mouth.

However, a person with true dry mouth can also become thirsty.

If after guzzling your favorite beverage, you still have that strange cottony feeling in your oral cavity, you probably have dry mouth, which can be a symptom of Sjogren’s syndrome, as well as a side effect from some medications, including, says Dr. Silvers, sleep aids, antihistamines, antidepressants/anti-anxiety, anti-convulsants, prescription painkillers and diuretics, among others.

An NYC expert in ear, nose and throat care, Dr. Silvers has been named among America’s Top Physicians and Surgeons in facial plastic surgery and otolaryngology numerous times since 2003.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.