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Dealing with dry mouth

A healthy adult produces about three pints of saliva each day. It's not the kind of thing you would give thought to very often, but that saliva plays a very important role in maintaining your health.

Saliva serves many purposes. It contains enzymes that aid in digestion. Saliva makes it easier to talk, a fact recognized by those who experience stage fright and the associated dry mouth while giving a presentation.

Saliva also helps prevent tooth decay by washing away food and debris from the teeth and gums. It neutralizes damaging acids, enhances the ability to taste food and makes it easier to swallow. Minerals found in saliva also help repair microscopic tooth decay.

Everyone, at some time or another, experiences dry mouth, also called "xerostomia." It can happen when you are nervous, upset or under stress or as a result of medication you take or other medical therapies. If dry mouth happens all or most of the time, however, it can be uncomfortable - and it can have serious consequences for your oral health.

Drying irritates the soft tissues in the mouth, which can make them inflamed and more susceptible to infection. Without the cleansing effects of saliva, tooth decay and other oral health problems become much more common.

Please contact the ADA if you have questions about this article.

©2010 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

06/06/2005

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