Dry mouth means you do not have enough saliva to keep the mouth in normal humidity levels. Everyone, at some time, have a dry mouth; especially if you’re nervous, upset or tense. However, if you have a dry mouth most of the time, it is very uncomfortable and can lead to more serious health problems or indicate the existence of a more serious medical condition. These conditions occur because the function of saliva is not only to keep the mouth moist: Saliva helps digest food, protects teeth from decay, prevents infection by controlling the population of bacteria in the mouth and chewing allows and swallowing.
There are several reasons why the glands that produce saliva, called salivary glands, might not be working properly. These reasons may be:
- Side effects of some medications: over 400 medications can cause dry mouth. These include antihistamines, decongestants, analgesics, diuretics and medications for hypertension and specific for depression.
- Diseases: there are diseases like diabetes, Hodgkin’s disease and Parkinson’s, AIDS, and Sjögren’s syndrome affecting the salivary glands and can cause dry mouth.
- X-ray therapy: for cancer treatment with X-rays, the salivary glands can be damaged before the radiation of the head and neck. The loss of saliva can be total or partial, permanent or temporary
- Chemotherapy drugs used in cancer treatment can thicken saliva and cause dry mouth.
- Menopause: changes in hormone levels affect the salivary glands. Often, menopausal and post-menopausal women with a persistent feeling of dry mouth.
- Smoking: a large number of smokers suffer from dry mouth.
How do I know if I have dry mouth?
Dry mouth all feel from time to time. If this feeling persists over time is indicative of problems in the production of saliva. Symptoms of dry mouth include:
- Feeling dry and pasty mouth
- Swallowing difficulties
- Burning sensation on the tongue
- Sensation of dryness in the throat
- Dry lips and cracked
- Reduced taste or permanent metallic taste in the mouth
- Frequent bad breath
- Difficulty chewing and talking
How is dry mouth?
The only way to cure dry mouth is to treat the causes. If dryness is due to certain medications, your doctor might change your prescription or dosage. If your salivary glands are not working properly but still produce some saliva, your doctor will prescribe a medicine that helps the glands work better. If the cause of the dryness cannot be eliminated, the moisture of the mouth can be retrieved from different anyway. Your dentist will recommend mouth moisturizers, such as saliva substitute. Mouthwashes specially formulated to provide relief from dry mouth. Also, consider these suggestions:
- Sip water or sugarless drinks
- Avoid drinks like coffee, tea or soda, which can cause dryness
- Chew sugarless gum or hard candy to stimulate saliva flow (if there is some function of the salivary gland)
- Do not smoke or drink alcohol because both produce dry mouth
- Be aware that spicy or salty foods may cause pain in a dry mouth
- At night, use room humidifiers