Bipolar Disorder and Dry Mouth

Treatment for bipolar disorder can leave you with a dry mouth. Learn about dry mouth causes in bipolar disorder and how they can be managed.

 

If you have been taking medication for bipolar disorder, you may have noticed that one of the uncomfortable side effects is a dry mouth. Drugs used to treat bipolar disorder change the way chemical messengers, called neurotransmitters, work in your brain. One of these transmitters is acetylcholine, and when this transmitter gets blocked, it can cause some unwanted side effects.

Bipolar disorder drugs that block acetylcholine have a so-called an “anticholinergic effect.” Since acetylcholine is an important messenger for many glands in the body, including the salivary glands, a common anticholinergic side effect is decreased production of saliva and a dry mouth.

Symptoms of dry mouth include:

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Sticky feeling in the mouth
Trouble chewing and tasting food
Trouble swallowing
Burning sensation in the mouth
Dry Mouth Causes: Bipolar Disorder Medications

Medications commonly used to treat bipolar disorder include mood stabilizers, antidepressants, antipsychotics, and anti-anxiety drugs. Each medication can cause dry mouth on its own, and many people may need more than one type of drug for their bipolar disorder, so it’s easy to see why dry mouth is a common bipolar treatment side effect. Here are some examples:

Mood stabilizers. Examples of mood stabilizers that cause dry mouth are lithium carbonate (Lithobid), olanzapine (Zyprexa), and carbamazepine (Tegretol).
Antidepressants. Antidepressants may be used to treat the depression phase of bipolar disorder. These drugs are usually used along with a mood stabilizer. Antidepressants that may cause dry mouth include bupropion (Wellbutrin), mirtazapine (Remeron), and trazodone (Desyrel).
Antipsychotic medications. Antipsychotic drugs have been found to be useful for some of the more severe manic symptoms of bipolar disorder. Quetiapine (Seroquel), risperidone (Risperdal), and trifluoperazine (Stelazine) are commonly used antipsychotics that can lead to dry mouth.
Anti-anxiety medications. Medications that help treat agitation or insomnia in people with bipolar disorder, such as benzodiazepines, can also cause dry mouth. These include clonazepam (Klonopin), alprazolam (Xanax), and lorazepam (Ativan).
Oral Health Problems Due to Dry Mouth

Because saliva helps prevent the build-up of bacteria in your mouth, dry mouth can become more than just a nuisance. Here are some oral health problems that dry mouth can cause:

Cavities
Mouth infections
Gum disease
Tooth loss
If you experience symptoms of dry mouth, talk to your doctor and your dentist. Let your dentist know about any medications you are taking. You may be advised to use artificial saliva or a fluoride gel to protect your teeth from decay, or you may be able to switch to a bipolar medication that causes less dryness. Steps that you can take yourself include:

Drinking plenty of water
Using sugarless gum or candy to stimulate saliva flow
Avoiding sugary drinks, caffeine, salty foods, and alcohol
Practicing good oral hygiene by brushing and flossing regularly
If you have bipolar disorder, you may need to try several different medications to get your symptoms under control. Dry mouth is one of the more common side effects you may experience during this process. It’s uncomfortable and can take some of the joy out of eating as well as lead to some serious oral health problems. If you have symptoms of dry mouth, don’t assume it is a side effect you have to live with. Talk to your doctor.

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