What do I need to know about dry mouth?
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
But if you have a dry mouth all or most of the time, it can be uncomfortable
and can lead to serious health problems. It can also be a sign of certain diseases and conditions.
- can cause difficulties in tasting, chewing, swallowing, and speaking
- can increase your chance of developing dental decay and other infections in
- can be caused by certain medications or medical treatments
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.
- a sticky, dry feeling in the mouth
- trouble chewing, swallowing, tasting, or speaking
- a burning feeling in the mouth
- a dry feeling in the throat
- cracked lips
- a dry, rough tongue
- mouth sores
- an infection in the mouth
Why is saliva so
Saliva does more than keep the mouth wet.
- It helps digest food
- It protects teeth from decay
- It prevents infection by controlling bacteria and fungi in the mouth
- It makes it possible for you to chew and swallow
Without enough saliva you can develop tooth decay or other infections in the
mouth. You also might not get the nutrients you need if you cannot chew and
swallow certain foods.
What causes dry mouth?
People get dry mouth when the glands in the mouth that make saliva are not
working properly. Because of this, there might not be enough saliva to keep your
mouth wet. There are several reasons why these glands (called salivary glands)
might not work right.
- Side effects of some medicines. 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.
- Disease. Some diseases affect the salivary glands.
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.
- Chemotherapy. 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 what is causing the problem. If you think
you have dry mouth, see your dentist or physician. He or she can try to
determine what is causing your dry mouth.
- If your dry mouth is caused by medicine, your physician might 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.