Dry mouth is the feeling that there is not enough saliva (or spit) in your mouth.
What other problems can result from having dry mouth?
- Dry mouth can make it hard to chew, swallow, or even talk.
- Saliva helps keep harmful germs under control. So, having less saliva increases the risk of developing tooth decay or thrush (a mouth infection also called oral candidiasis).
- If your mouth is dry, dentures, mouthguards, or oral appliances can become uncomfortable and may not fit as well. Without enough saliva, they can rub against your cheeks, gums, or the roof of your mouth and cause sore spots.
- Having dry mouth all or most of the time is not only uncomfortable—it can lead to serious health problems. It can also be a sign of certain diseases, habits, or conditions.
What causes dry mouth?
- Side effects of some medicines. Hundreds of medicines can cause the salivary glands to make less saliva. For example, some medicines for allergies, high blood pressure, and depression can cause dry mouth.
- Dehydration (losing too much fluid from your body). Older adults are more likely to be dehydrated than younger people.
- Disease. Diabetes, HIV/AIDS, and Sjögren’s syndrome can all cause dry mouth. Sjögren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disorder in which the body’s immune cells attack and destroy the glands that produce tears and saliva.
- Radiation therapy. The salivary glands can be damaged if they are exposed to radiation during cancer treatment.
- Chemotherapy. Drugs used to treat cancer can make saliva thicker; this can cause the mouth to feel dry.
- Nerve damage. Injury to the head or neck can damage the nerves that tell salivary glands to make saliva.
- Recreational or illicit drugs. Use of recreational or illicit drugs can cause dry mouth and tooth decay.
- Habits. Snoring and breathing with your mouth open also can contribute to dry mouth.
It’s important to know that dry mouth is not a normal part of the aging process.
- Visit a dentist or healthcare provider who can help find out what’s causing the dry mouth and how to treat it.
- If medicines are causing dry mouth, the dentist or healthcare provider might advise that you change medicines or adjust the amount you take.
- Other treatments might include a medicine that helps the salivary glands work better or artificial saliva to keep the mouth wet.
- Sip water or sugarless drinks often, especially during meals. This will make it easier for you to chew and swallow. It may also improve the taste of food.
- Avoid drinks with caffeine, such as coffee, tea, and some sodas. Caffeine can dry out the mouth.
- Chew sugarless gum or suck on sugarless hard candy to stimulate saliva flow; citrus, cinnamon, or mint-flavored candies are good choices.
- Some sugarless chewing gums and candies contain a sweetener called xylitol and may help prevent cavities.
- Avoid using tobacco or alcohol. They can make dry mouth worse.
- Be aware that spicy or salty foods may cause pain in a dry mouth.
- Use a humidifier at night. A humidifier helps create or maintain wetness in the air.
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