Dry mouth is a concern that many people have. Severe dryness can be caused by several factors such as medical conditions or by medications. Saliva keeps the mouth wet so that food can be digested, bacteria and fungi are in balance, and chewing and swallowing are possible. Dry mouth is not only uncomfortable for patients but also puts patients at a high risk for cavities and infections.
Symptoms of dry mouth include:
* Sticky, dry feeling or burning in the mouth or throat or on the tongue
* Trouble functioning while chewing, swallowing, or speaking
* Cracked lips
Dry mouth can be caused by underlying medical conditions such as damage to the salivary gland from radiation or chemotherapy treatment. Diseases such as Sjögren’s syndrome, Alzheimer’s, or stroke are also sources of dryness.
Medications that commonly contribute to dry mouth include those that are used to treat depression, anxiety, pain, allergies, and Parkinson’s disease. Dry mouth is a common side effect of these medications. Upon discussion with your doctor, he or she may consider trying a different medication or changing the dosage.
There is help for dry mouth. Your dentist, hygienist, or doctor may recommend you use artificial saliva to keep your mouth wet. Over the counter products that stimulate salivary glands and moisten the mouth include toothpastes, mouth rinses, and sugar free gum. Other tips to help control dry mouth include:
* Sipping water or sugarless drinks often as well as with meals to improve functioning with chewing and swallowing
* Avoid caffeine
* Avoid tobacco and alcohol
* Chewing sugarless gum or suck on sugarless candy
Helpful tips to keep your dry mouth healthy include:
* Gentle brushing at least twice a day along with flossing
* Use toothpaste with fluoride
* Avoid sticky and sugary foods
* Regular dental visits at least twice a year
As you can see, there are several options available to help with dry mouth. Between diet modification, meticulous oral hygiene habits, and communication with your dental professional and your physician, relief from this uncomfortable condition is possible.