Does your tongue feel like sandpaper? A rough tongue is commonly caused by dry mouth. Most people experience dry mouth at some point in their lives, usually as a result of dehydration. Perhaps it’s a particularly warm day or you haven’t drunk enough water. The good news is that in this case, increasing your water intake should relieve the issue.
However, if you experience dry mouth for a prolonged period of time, there may be a more serious underlying reason behind it.
Symptoms of Dry Mouth
A dry mouth makes your tongue feel like sandpaper and can make it difficult to swallow, chew, or speak. Other symptoms of dry mouth include:
- Halitosis (bad breath)
- Mouth cracks (at the corners of the mouth)
- Redness, blisters, or ulcers in the mouth
- Dryness and pain inside the mouth
- Trouble eating dry or spicy food
- Changes in the appearance of the tongue (a pebbled appearance)
What to do if your Tongue Feels Like Sandpaper
If you suddenly begin to experience dry mouth, the first step is to make sure you are properly hydrated and that your oral hygiene is good. Drink two litres of water daily (2.5 litres for men) and make sure that you clean your tongue thoroughly when brushing your teeth. You may want to buy a tongue scraper and scrape your tongue after brushing your teeth to remove any buildup.
As well as drinking sufficient water, chewing sugar-free gum or sucking on a lozenge can reduce dry mouth and promote the production of saliva in the mouth. This should solve the issue and get rid of the sandpaper-feel on your tongue.
On the other hand, if you experience these symptoms for a long period of time, it’s important to consult your doctor. Chronic dry mouth could be caused by a health condition known as Xerostomia.
Causes of Dry Mouth
Prolonged dry mouth (Xerostomia) can be caused by a number of factors. One of the most common causes is medication. Xerostomia is a side effect in a wide range of medications for cholesterol, high blood pressure, and mood stabilization. It’s a particularly common side effect for those who are taking three or more medications at a time (polypharmacy).
Cancer treatment is another common culprit for dry mouth, particularly in patients undergoing head and neck radiation. Cancer treatments reduce hyposalivation, or the flow of saliva, resulting in a dry mouth and a rough tongue.
Smoking can also contribute to dry mouth. It reduces moisture in the mouth and on the tongue and reduces hydration.
Occasionally, a chronic dry, rough tongue could indicate an autoimmune disease such as Addison’s disease, a hormonal imbalance, or an underlying infection. This is why it’s important to identify the root cause early.
Finally, a tongue like sandpaper may be a result of lifestyle factors. Poor nutrition, excessive smoking, alcohol consumption or drug use may exacerbate dry mouth. Marijuana and methamphetamine are two drugs in particular that are known to cause a dry mouth.
Why is Saliva Important?
Having a consistently dry mouth can have long-term health effects.
Saliva is made up of around 99% water, but the other 1% contains secretory proteins, electrolytes, and other protective elements. These components maintain a healthy oral pH, clean and protect the teeth, facilitate swallowing and digestion, remineralize the teeth, and shield the mouth from dryness and harmful microorganisms.
When the mouth doesn’t produce enough saliva, this can result in more tooth cavities. Saliva balances the oral pH. When there isn’t enough saliva and pH drops below 5.5, tooth enamel begins to wear away and cavities occur.
Saliva is key for dental health. This is why it’s important to look after your teeth well if you’re experiencing dry mouth. Brush your teeth for at least two minutes at least twice a day, floss regularly, and switch to an alcohol-free mouthwash to prevent further drying of the mouth.
Experiencing a dry mouth and a tongue that feels like sandpaper is relatively normal for a short period of time. It’s usually caused by a lack of hydration, poor oral hygiene, or lifestyle factors such as excessive smoking or alcohol consumption.
However, if the problem persists, it’s important to seek medical advice. Chronic dry mouth could indicate a more serious underlying condition or could impact dental health. The good news is, there are plenty of remedies available to relieve the symptoms and get your mouth back to normal.