Help for Dry Mouth

Most of the time, the inside of the mouth is moist. If that moisture is chronically absent, this condition is called xerostomia or dry mouth which happens when the salivary glands don’t produce enough saliva.

What little saliva is made becomes thick and the mouth feels sticky or dry. Chewing, swallowing, or speaking may become difficult and things may not taste the same. The tongue can become dry and grooved, and bad breath may develop. The throat also can be affected, turning dry or sore resulting in hoarseness.

If you are experiencing a variety of these symptoms, you probably have dry mouth:

  • Dry feeling in your mouth
  • Trouble swallowing, chewing, speaking
  • A sore tongue or burning sensation
  • Cracked lips
  • Dry feeling in your throat
  • Trouble tasting/ metallic taste in your mouth
  • Mouth sores
  • Bad breath
  • Allergies

Health effects

In addition to these annoying symptoms, overall health can suffer. Dry mouth may cause more plaque than usual to form in the mouth, causing cavities and gum disease. An oral yeast infection, called thrush, also can develop, as can sores, both inside the mouth and at the corners of the lips. In severe cases, difficulty chewing and swallowing can interfere with good nutrition.
Possible causes can include:

  • Certain medications to treat high blood pressure, pain, or asthma
  • Snoring
  • Mouth breathing
  • Tobacco, alcohol, or recreational drug use
  • Cancer therapies
  • Head and neck injuries
  • Aging

A dry mouth also may stem from health conditions, such as stroke, salivary gland disorders, diabetes, thrush, dementia, autoimmune diseases.

Self-help for dry mouth

Help for dry mouth is available. The answer may be as simple as asking your physician to adjust your medications or try a different one or using an over-the-counter rinse, mouth moisturizer or artificial saliva. Typically these come in a spray, rinse or gel, which can help moisten your mouth whenever it feels dry.

Below are some steps you can take to reduce symptoms of dry mouth.

  • Sip water or sugar-free beverages frequently while avoiding drinks with caffeine. Drinking more water or sugarless drinks during meals will also make chewing and swallowing easier on you.
  • Sucking on sugar-free candies or chewing sugar-free gum help stimulate saliva flow.
  • Rethink your diet. Know that spicy or salty food may cause more pain and dryness, while juicy fruits can have the opposite effect.
  • Breathe through your nose whenever possible.
  • Seek treatment for snoring.
  • While you’re sleeping, use a room humidifier throughout the night.
  • Avoid tobacco, caffeine, and alcohol as they dry out the mouth.
  • Don’t use over-the-counter decongestants and antihistamines, which can dry out the mouth.

To rule out an underlying health condition and monitor plaque and cavities, it’s important to seek dental care for dry mouth. With proper treatment, the mouth will become moist and functional again.

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