Known by its medical term, xerostomia (zeer-oh-stoh-mee-ah), dry mouth is when you do not have enough saliva to keep your mouth wet and moisturized.
Everyone's mouth feels dry from time to time. It's when this feeling doesn't go away that you may have a problem producing saliva.Symptoms of dry mouth include:
- A sticky, dry feeling in the mouth or throat
- Trouble chewing, swallowing, tasting or speaking
- A burning feeling in the mouth
- A dry, tough tongue
- Cracked lips
- Gum irritation
- More frequent tooth decay
- Mouth sores
- Bad breath
Dry mouth can occur when the glands in the mouth that make saliva are not working properly. Some common causes include nervousness, stress, certain medications, aging, cancer therapy (radiation/chemotherapy), and autoimmune disorders like Sjorgren’s syndrome, smoking and methamphetamine use.
Sjogren’s syndrome is a chronic autoimmune disease in which a person’s white blood cells attack their moisture-producing glands, the eyes and salivary glands in the mouth.
Sjorgren’s can cause dry eyes, dry mouth, fatigue and joint pain. It can also cause dysfunction on other organs, such as the kidneys, gastrointestinal system, blood vessels, lungs, liver, pancreas and central nervous system.
Oral issues that occur are dry mouth, swollen salivary glands, increase in tooth decay and gum disease. Conduct good oral hygiene procedures and see your dentist for regular professional cleanings.
The only permanent way to cure dry mouth is to treat its cause. If your dry mouth is the result of medication, your doctor might change your prescription or your dosage. If your salivary glands are not working properly, but still produce some saliva, your doctor might give you medication that helps the glands work better.
There are a number of steps you can take to help minimize dry mouth, including:
- Sipping water or sugarless drinks often and during meals
- Avoiding drinks with caffeine, such as coffee, tea, and some sodas
- Professional recommendation for oral care products that will assist in moisturizing the mouth
- 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, which dry out the mouth
- Minimize spicy or salty foods, which may cause pain in a dry mouth
- Avoid sugar and acidic foods
- Using a humidifier at night
Dry mouth treatment depends on what is causing the problem. If you think you have dry mouth, see your dentist or physician to determine the cause.
If your dry mouth is caused by medicine, your physician might change your medicine or adjust the dosage.
If your salivary glands are not working right but can still produce some saliva, your physician or dentist might give you an over-the-counter or prescription medicine (Salogen tablets or Evoxac) that stimulate more saliva.
Your physician or dentist might suggest that you use artificial saliva to keep your mouth wet.
If dry mouth happens all or most of the time, however, it can be uncomfortable - and may 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 issues become much more common. It is important that you take good care of your teeth and gums. Brush twice a day, and floss or use an interdental cleaner once a day to remove dental plaque and food debris from between the teeth where your toothbrush cannot reach.