Dry mouth is also known medically as xerostomia refers to a condition that occurs when salivary glands in your mouth don’t produce enough saliva. Its characterized by symptoms such as dry feeling in your mouth, rough tongue, mouth sores and cracked lips.
Saliva helps prevent plaque and gingivitis by diluting acids produced by bacteria, limiting bacterial growth and washing away food particles. Saliva also makes your taste buds effective and makes it easier to chew and swallow.
Dry mouth is not a serious medical condition on its own. But in most cases, a symptom of another underlying medical condition that requires treatment. It can also lead to complications, such as tooth decay.
Causes of dry mouth
People get dry mouth due to improper functioning of the glands in your mouth that make saliva. It often results in dehydration. Because of this, there might not be enough saliva to keep your mouth wet. There are several reasons why your salivary glands might not function correctly.
- Damage to the nerves – An injury that causes damage to your head and neck area can damage the nerves that stimulates the salivary glands to produce saliva. This can result in dryness of the mouth.
- Chemotherapy – drugs used to treat cancer can make saliva thicker and scanty, causing the mouth to feel dry. This may be temporary with normal flow of saliva returning after treatment is completed.
- Age – Even though dry mouth is not a natural part of aging but because the aged tend to take more medications for certain conditions. Many of the medications taken mostly cause dry mouth.
- Medications – Many prescribed and over-the-counter medications causes dry mouth. Medications such as antihistamines, decongestants, anti-hypertensives, depression and muscle relaxants.
- Medical conditions – some diseases affect the salivary glands. Sjögren’s Syndrome, HIV/AIDS, diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease can all cause dry mouth.
- Tobacco and alcohol use. Drinking alcohol and smoking or chewing tobacco can increase dry mouth symptoms.
Symptoms of dry mouth
If you are unable to produce enough saliva, you may notice these signs and symptoms most of the time:
- A sticky, dry feeling in the mouth
- Bad breath
- Difficulty chewing, swallowing, tasting or even speaking
- A burning sensation in the mouth
- Thicky and stringy saliva
- A dry feeling in the throat
- Cracked lips
- A dry, tough tongue
- Mouth and throat sores
- An infection in the mouth such as gingivitis
There are many ways to keep the mouth lubricated and prevent the symptoms of dry mouth such as:
- Sipping water, ice cubes or sugarless drinks often and during meals to aid chewing and swallowing.
- Avoiding drinks with caffeine, such as coffee, tea, and some sodas
- Add moisture to the air at night with a room humidifier.
- Moisturize your lips to soothe dry or cracked areas.
- Chew sugarless gum or suck on sugarless hard candy to stimulate saliva flow citrus, cinnamon or mint-flavored candies are good choices.
- Avoid tobacco or alcohol, because they can dry out the mouth and cause pain.
- Minimize spicy or salty foods, which may cause pain and irritate your mouth.
- Avoid sugar and acidic foods because it increases the risk of tooth decay.
- See your dentist at least twice yearly to have your teeth examined.