What Is Dry Mouth?
When your glands don't produce enough saliva to keep your mouth comfortably moistened, you may have xerostomia, more simply known as dry mouth. Everyone experiences dry mouth occasionally, especially when nervous or stressed. But many people experience dry mouth frequently due to medication side effects or more serious complications that interfere with saliva production. Symptoms of dry mouth include difficulty chewing, changes in taste, a burning sensation throughout the mouth, mouth sores, and cracked lips.
More than 500 medications (over-the-counter and prescription) can cause dry mouth or increase its severity. Decongestants and antihistamines are common culprits, and some antidepressants, blood pressure medications, sedatives, antispasmodics for cramps, and antipsychotics for anxiety can also cause dry mouth.
Drugs used to treat Parkinson's disease and prevent nausea and vomiting during chemotherapy or radiation treatment may also trigger dry mouth.
To lessen the symptoms of dry mouth, sip water throughout the day and avoid smoking and drinking beverages with caffeine or alcohol. To stimulate more saliva flow, chew sugarless gum, suck on sugarless candies or use a saliva substitute recommended by your doctor.
Other Conditions That Affect Saliva Production
Sjogren's syndrome is an autoimmune disease that affects the salivary glands and may cause dry mouth or mouth sores. Dry mouth is a symptom associated with HIV, Parkinson's disease, and diabetes. Chemotherapy can sometimes make the mouth feel dry because the saliva becomes thicker.
A salivary gland infection can occur due to dehydration, chronic illness, or blockage from a salivary stone duct. Smoking or poor oral hygiene can also result in a bacterial infection of a gland.
Mumps is a viral infection that most often affects the parotid gland. Besides dry mouth, symptoms of a gland infection may include:
- Redness on the cheeks or neck
- Swelling or pain in the upper neck or side of the face and difficulty opening the mouth
See a dental professional if you are concerned about a salivary gland infection or another condition affecting your body's ability to produce saliva. Remember, a wet mouth is a healthy mouth, and salivary glands are the key.