Everyone feels thirsty occasionally, but for some people that feeling is a chronic problem. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), studies show that 21.3 percent of men and 27.3 percent of women experience chronic dry mouth. If you're one of them, you may be concerned about the impact of your dry mouth and throat on your health. Here's what you need to know.
Dry mouth is much more than just an inconvenient feeling of thirst. If you have chronic dry mouth, it's very important that you seek treatment. This is because saliva does a lot more than just moisten your mouth; one of its key roles is to wash food particles from your teeth. Insufficient saliva increases your risk of developing tooth cavities, says the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. Moreover, saliva protects your teeth from the acids found in foods and drinks; without this protection, your enamel is also at risk of erosion.
There are many things you can do at home to stimulate the flow of saliva and make your dry mouth and throat feel better. Drinking enough water throughout the day can help keep your mouth moist, as can humidifying your house. Chewing sugar-free gum or sucking on sugar-free sweets can also help stimulate saliva. It's important to choose sugar-free options to keep cavities at bay.
Your dentist may also recommend changing the types of foods you eat. Crunchy foods like chips or popcorn can dry out your mouth, while juicy foods like fruits can provide moisture.
Home remedies aren't always enough, but your dentist can recommend products like artificial saliva to moisten your mouth. Artificial saliva often comes in spray or gel form; apply it to your mouth whenever it feels dry. Your dentist can also prescribe pills that stimulate the flow of saliva.
Some toothpastes are designed to prevent dehydrating your mouth – they are known to be less irritating and less likely to cause dryness. This will help keep your mouth comfortable and moist. These toothpastes generally require a prescription, so make sure to ask your dentist about them.
There are many medical conditions that can cause dry mouth. If your dentist diagnoses this condition, your next visit should be to your doctor. According to the NIH, dry mouth has been linked to problems like depression, anxiety, nutritional deficiencies and autoimmune disorders. Autoimmune disorders include rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and Sjogren's syndrome.
Chronic dry mouth can also be a side effect of various medications, such as those treating high blood pressure, pain or asthma. If medications are the cause, you may need to adjust your dosage or get a prescription for a different medication altogether.
Dry mouth and throat is a serious problem. If you always feel thirsty, make an appointment with your dentist – he or she can help manage your symptoms and protect your teeth from the effects of low saliva production.