Dry mouth

What is Dry Mouth?

Dry mouth, or xerostomia, is a condition in which the salivary glands in the mouth do not produce enough saliva to keep the mouth moist. Saliva helps break down food and also helps to prevent infection in the mouth. While it can happen occasionally, prolonged periods of dry mouth may cause health risks and require medical attention.

Types of Dry Mouth

There are two types of dry mouth. The first type is primary xerostomia, where the cause of dry mouth is unknown. This type of xerostomia is usually caused by aging, stress or illness. The second type is secondary xerostomia, where the cause of the dry mouth is known. Secondary xerostomia can be caused by certain medicines, drugs, radiation therapy, smoking, dehydration, chronic illness, a vitamin deficiency or a damaged salivary gland.

Why is Dry Mouth a Problem?

If the mouth is dry, it can lead to a variety of health problems, including an increased risk of tooth decay, gum disease, sore throat or cracked lips. Additionally, dry mouth can make it difficult to speak or eat. Dry mouth can also make it harder to taste and swallow food, as saliva helps to break down food and keep the mouth moist.

When to Seek Medical Attention

If you are experiencing dry mouth for an extended period of time, it is important to speak with your doctor or dentist. Your doctor or dentist can prescribe a medication or recommend an oral rinse that can help to alleviate the dryness. Additionally, they can suggest lifestyle changes that will help to prevent future dry mouth.

Risks of Dry Mouth

  • Tooth decay
  • Gum disease
  • Sore throat
  • Cracked lips
  • Difficulty speaking or eating
  • Difficulty tasting or swallowing food

Prevention and Treatment of Dry Mouth

To prevent or treat dry mouth, it is important to drink plenty of fluids and avoid smoking or tobacco products. Additionally, it is important to chew sugar-free gum or suck on sugar-free candies, as this can help to stimulate the production of saliva. It is also important to use a mouth rinse, as this can help to neutralize acids that can cause tooth decay. If necessary, your dentist or doctor can prescribe medications or oral rinses that can help to treat dry mouth.