Dry mouth is the feeling that there is not enough saliva in the mouth. Everyone has a dry mouth once in a while—if they are nervous, upset, or under stress. But if you have a dry mouth all or most of the time, it can be uncomfortable and can lead to serious dental problems. It can also be a sign of certain diseases and conditions.
Dry mouth can cause difficulties in tasting, chewing, swallowing, and speaking. It can increase your chance of developing dental decay and other infections in the mouth, and it can be caused by certain medications or radiation treatment for head and neck cancer. Dry mouth is not a normal part of aging. So if you think you have dry mouth, see your dentist or physician—there are things you can do to get relief.
- Sticky, dry feeling in the mouth
- Trouble chewing, swallowing, tasting, or speaking
- Burning feeling in the mouth
- Dry feeling in the throat
- Cracked lips
- Dry, rough tongue
- Mouth sores
- Certain infection in the mouth
Why Is Saliva So Important?
Saliva does more than keep the mouth comfortable. It helps digest food. It protects teeth from decay. It prevents infection by controlling bacteria and fungi in the mouth.
What Causes Dry Mouth?
People get dry mouth when the glands in the mouth that make saliva are not working properly. The problem may be that the salivary glands are not producing enough saliva or that they are producing saliva that is missing key components. There are several reasons why these salivary glands might not work properly.
- Side effects of medication. More than 400 medicines can cause the salivary glands to make less saliva. For example, medicines for high blood pressure and depression often cause dry mouth.
- Some diseases affect the salivary glands. Sjögren’s syndrome, HIV/AIDS, and diabetes can all cause dry mouth.
- Radiation therapy. The salivary glands can be damaged if they are exposed to radiation during cancer treatment.
- Drugs used to treat cancer can make saliva thicker, causing the mouth to feel dry.
- Nerve damage. Injury to the head or neck can damage the nerves that tell salivary glands to make saliva.
What Can Be Done About Dry Mouth?
Dry mouth treatment will depend on the cause. If your dry mouth is caused by medicine, your physician might be able to change your medicine or adjust the dosage.If your salivary glands are not working right but can still produce some saliva, your physician or dentist might give you a medicine that helps the glands work better. Your physician or dentist might suggest that you use artificial saliva to keep your mouth wet.
What Can I Do To Help?
- Sip water or sugarless drinks throughout the day
- Avoid drinks with caffeine, such as coffee, tea, and some sodas. Caffeine can dry out the mouth
- Sip water or a sugarless drink during meals. This will make chewing and swallowing easier. It may also improve the taste of food
- Chew sugarless gum or suck on sugarless hard candy to stimulate saliva flow; citrus, cinnamon or mint-flavored candies are good choices
- Don’t use tobacco or alcohol. They dry out the mouth
- Be aware that spicy or salty foods may cause pain in a dry mouth
- Use a humidifier at night
- Try saliva substitutes, such as Biotene products
Remember, if you have dry mouth, you need to be extra careful to keep your teeth healthy. Excellent home care and frequent check-ups with your dentist are a must.
If you are experiencing dry mouth and would like to speak with Dr. Bryan Limmer about your options, please call us at 720-242-6803 to schedule an appointment.